ST. CLOUD -- When Parker Hanson was born, not everything was perfect. One thing was very clear: he didn’t have a left hand. There was something else, however, something unseen that is now very apparent in the junior from Hawley High School.
“I don’t care if you’re playing baseball in the state tournament or you’re playing checkers, Parker wants to win,” said Hawley coach Beau Lofgren on Friday at the Class 2A state baseball tournament. “He’s very competitive. He has that drive, which is something you don’t coach. That’s something you’re born with. We’re very proud of him.”
Parker is the Nuggets’ top pitcher, coming into this week’s state tournament with a record of 7-1, a 2.92 earned-run average and 70 strikeouts in 48 innings. The Nuggets lost to Kasson-Mantorville 5-3 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and fell to Aitkin 5-4 in Friday’s consolation bracket.
Hanson also plays football, including time at wide receiver. So yes, in the baseball field he hits and plays defense, and on the football field he catches passes and carries the ball. All with one hand.
“I don’t know what it’s like to play with two hands,” he said very simply. He calls baseball his passion, and there’s no doubting his talent. Before the state tournament, Parker was hitting .346 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 23 games.
On the mound and at first base, he puts his glove on his right hand. As he catches the ball he seamlessly takes the glove off, tucks it into his left arm and throws with his right arm. At the plate, he wears a prosthetic sleeve that attaches to the bat. As he drops the bat and runs to first base, the prosthesis remains attached to the bat.
“Regardless of what he has or doesn’t have, in terms of other human beings, he’s a phenomenal ballplayer,” Lofgren said. “He just shows a lot of tenacity and grit, and he’s able to lift a team when needed.”
Parker has been a varsity baseball player since eighth grade, and he has been an everyday player since the start of the 2013 season.
Lofgren said when opposing coaches got their first look at Hanson, the reactions were what you would expect.
“It’s pure astonishment. They’re almost beyond belief that he can do what he does. They see him throw and they say, ‘Oh geez, this kid’s for real.’ ”
The Nuggets made their first trip to state since 2009 the hard way, winning five consecutive elimination games to win the Section 8 championship. In all five games Hawley trailed in the sixth inning or later.
Teams don’t qualify for state without a lot of hard work, and Hawley is no exception. Parker, for example, has worn out his coaches while working to improve his defense at first base.
“He’s our leader, for sure,” Lofgren said. “I have hit him countless bags of groundballs. He’ll ask, ‘Can I have one more bag?’ It’s not, ‘I only want five more balls and then I’m done.’ ”
Parker isn’t onld enough to remember when Jim Abbott, who also was born with just one hand, spent 10 years (1989-99) as a major league pitcher. But Parker has done research on Abbott, including a school project in sixth grade. Parker has conversed with Abbott on Twitter.
“I’ve messaged him and he gave me a couple hints,” Parker said. “He’s really helped me, given me some confidence. He’s a really nice guy.
“He really set the bar high and gave me a lot of confidence to keep battling through all the struggles I’ve faced and keep going.”
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES MOVED TO MONDAY
Because of weather concerns, the baseball state championship games have been moved to Monday at Target Field. The games were originally scheduled for Saturday at Target Field but will be played Monday. Game times will be as originally scheduled, and here are the matchups…
Class 1A at noon: New Life Academy vs. New York Mills
Class 2A at 3 p.m.: St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Fairmont
Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Mounds View vs. Eden Prairie
LACROSSE, CLAY TARGET SHOOTING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday’s schedule also includes state championship events in lacrosse and clay target shooting. Both activities can be held in rain, but lightning can cause delays.
The lacrosse schedule…
Girls title game at 5 p.m.: Eden Prairie vs. Blake at Chanhassen
Boys title game at 7 p.m.: Eden Prairie vs. Rosemount at Chanhassen
The clay target shooting competition will be held at Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. Opening ceremonies will be held at 8:30 a.m. and the first of three flights in team competition will begin at 9 a.m. The team awards ceremony is scheduled for 12:45. Individual competition will begin at 1:15 with awards scheduled for 5 p.m.
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