In a season that was otherwise good for very little, the 2011 Twins were able to grant playing time to some youngsters that otherwise wouldn't have gotten a chance had the club been in its typical pennant race during the dog days of summer.
One of the primary benefactors of this newfound glut of playing time was first baseman Chris Parmelee, who absolutely scorched big league pitching in his September cup of coffee, hitting .355/.443/.592 with a pristine 13/12 K/BB ratio and four long balls. At the very least, Parmelee has proven that he's back on track after a bit of an early career blip on the radar, much like Double-A comrade Joe Benson. Parmelee found time to sit and chat with TwinkieTown's Brandon Warne in the Twins clubhouse last October as the '11 season came to a close.
Brandon Warne: Who is Chris Parmelee, both as a player, and as a person?
Chris Parmelee: I’m married; I have a wife. I grew up in Southern California -- born in Long Beach -- and I’ve been playing this game since I was four or five years old. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but I’ve also found that you have to work even harder once you get here. I was drafted out of high school; I was committed to Cal State-Fullerton, but I decided to come to the Twins organization, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve had a great time in this organization.
BW: Yeah, Fullerton certainly doesn’t mess around! Talk about your youth and playing baseball a little bit, and what it meant to play baseball in Southern California, which is really a high school baseball hotbed.
CP: I was fortunate enough to grow up in California, where baseball is played year-round. Some of the guys here -- the Midwest or Northeast -- can’t play baseball year-round because of the snow or the weather, so I realize I was pretty fortunate. It gave me a lot more time to go out and practice outside year-round with travel ball and stuff like that.
BW: You had a monster senior season, and it really propelled you to where you ended up going in the draft. Can you elaborate a bit on that senior season, and about what point it was which college and pro teams started scouting you?
CP: I’d say it started the summer between my junior and senior years. During travel ball, I had some scouts and agencies come to the games to talk to me. Not until my senior season did I realize that I could do this for a living out of high school, though.
BW: So you get to draft day, and the time around it. What was it like on draft day, and hearing your named called?
CP: I took the day off of school. I had heard through the grapevine that I might go in the first round, but I’d also heard some stories about guys who had thought they were going to go in the first round and didn’t, so I didn’t get my hopes up. But when I heard my named called, it was unbelievable. My parents and everyone started yelling. My dad and my mom gave me a hug, and so did my girlfriend at the time -- now my wife -- and my grandparents were there also. It was a special day.
BW: It sounds pretty unreal. You were on the prospect radar right away out of the gates, including making Baseball America’s top-100 list in 2007. That season likely wasn’t as good as you’d have wanted, and took you off the radar a little bit. What has it been like for you to continue to work hard to rebuild your stock and get you to where you are today?
CP: Just like you said, hard work and not giving up. In 2010, I started the season in Double-A with (Joe) Benson, and after April we were sent down to Fort Myers. We could have put our heads down a sulked and been upset, but we both worked hard and we were only down there for a short time. It’s all about just keeping your head up, pushing on, and working hard. You have to work hard for your dreams.
BW: Kind of on the same vein there, what’s it like playing in the Twins system? What do they preach to you on a daily or regular basis?
CP: Playing for the Twins organization, well, it’s by far the best organization. The way they teach the game, and their teaching mentality and the way they go about it, is that they respect the game. They expect you to respect the game, and that’s ultimately the way to play the game. It’s unbelievable how much each one of the coaches and staff members in the minor leagues are educated about the game of baseball.
BW: Can you help us understand what the jump from Double-A to the big leagues is like? Completely skipping Triple-A isn’t too typical, and what have you noticed is different about how the game moves and that sort of thing?
CP: When I first got up here, the game was a little bit faster. But, I’m starting to get comfortable now, and it’s starting to feel normal. There are a lot less mistakes, I’d say. A lot less mistakes on defense; a lot less mistakes on pitchers; a lot less mistakes on hitters. Pitchers don’t hang too many pitches anymore, and if they do, the hitter is there to capitalize on it, and usually they don’t miss. I mean, you might miss once-in-a-while, but for the most part, the mistakes are limited.
BW: How about the strike zones? Are they a little tighter?
CP: Yeah, they’re a little bit tighter, but you still have to look for the pitch you want to hit in a certain count, and protect with two strikes.
BW: Take us through finding out that you were getting called up for the first time.
CP: We finished our season in a playoff run until the very last day. We ended up losing the last game of the season, and the other team ended up winning so we knew we weren’t going to be in the playoffs. We were sitting in the clubhouse after the game, with the entire team, and our manager Jeff Smith was congratulating us on a good season, and how hard we had worked throughout the entire year. Then, he told Benson to get a haircut, and said, "Parmelee, you’d better shave, because you’re going to the big leagues." Everyone just mauled us after that, and gave us hugs. It was pretty special.
BW: Did you completely flip out? Who did you call first?
CP: I called my wife first. She was pretty happy; she was REALLY happy. Then I called my parents, and they were jumping for joy through the phone.
BW: That sounds an awful lot like when I talked to Rene Tosoni; he had basically the same situation. So what was going through your mind in the on-deck circle the first time, and when you stepped into the batter’s box?
CP: I was nervous on the on-deck circle, but once I got inside the batter’s box and stepped in against the pitcher, all my nerves pretty much went outside the window. It’s the same game, no matter what level you’re at. The pitcher is still pitching the ball from 60 feet, six inches away. So, I was nervous a little bit on deck, but that pretty much went away as soon as I stepped in.
BW: Since your promotion, what have you learned from your teammates, the game, or anything in general in that brief time?
CP: I’ve learned that you need to keep working hard once you get here, because your work isn’t done. There’s always somebody trying to take your spot. You need to play each day like it could be your last. Work hard, and just respect the game.
BW: Beyond Joe Benson, who you’ve played with the past couple years, who are your other guys in the clubhouse who you hang out or fraternize with?
CP: It kind of sounds corny, but everybody. Everybody is unbelievably nice here, and welcoming. There’s not one person that I wouldn’t mind talking to on the club.
BW: Any final thoughts? What do you want Twins fans to know about you?
CP: I’m going to keep working hard, day-in and day-out, and I’m going to play the game the right way. We’re going to come out and get some wins.