June 11, 2010

By John Clayton
Special to NCAA.com

CLEMSON - Forget Clemson's five regional titles in as many appearances since 2005. And forget about the Tigers' nine NCAA Division I baseball Super Regional appearances over the past 12 years.

The talk leading up to this weekend's Super Regional matchup between Clemson (41-22) and Alabama (41-23) has centered around Clemson two-sport star junior Kyle Parker, who was drafted in the first round, 26th overall, by the Colorado Rockies in this week's Major League Baseball free-agent draft.

"When you get picked that high, you really don't get that kind of opportunity to come your way a whole lot," Parker said Wednesday. "It makes me think I could go to the major leagues soon. I just want to sign by the end of Summer I (which ends June 24th) or the beginning of Summer II (June 28th) just to be fair to Coach (Dabo) Swinney and the
guys on the football team."

For now, Parker said he is trying to concentrate on the task at hand and helping the Tigers advance to the College World Series. Clemson and the Crimson Tide will play a best-of-three series at Clemson's Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. (EDT) Saturday with the second game of the series scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday. If necessary, Game 3 would be played at Monday with a start time to be announced.

Saturday's game will be broadcast on ESPN2, while Sunday's and Monday's potential game are set for ESPNU.

The Crimson Tide will send right-hander Jimmy Nelson (8-3, 3.92 ERA) to the mound against Clemson southpaw Casey Harman (7-2, 3.95) in Saturday night's series opener.

Parker, a slugging outfielder and starting quarterback for the Clemson football team, became the only player in Division I history to record 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same academic year after hitting his 20th homer of the season during last week's Regional victory over Auburn.

Tickets for Saturday and Sunday's games were sold out by Wednesday morning, but the school released a limited number of standing-room only tickets Thursday afternoon.

It may be the last chance for Clemson fans to see Parker in a Tigers uniform of any kind.

Parker's family is quoted as saying the slugger is seeking "life-changing money" from the Rockies. Parker said the Rockies are aware of what it would take to sign him.

"It's been a little hectic the last couple of days, but on the same point, a lot of good things have happened and I'm happy with it," Parker said. "I am happy to be playing here. There are still a lot of things to figure out, but the pressure is off and this is a good time
to go and play."

Swinney, who lost backup quarterback Willy Korn when he left for Marshall after a
disappointing run with the Tigers, said he will be meeting with Parker after the baseball season ends for Clemson.

"Ultimately, he'll make a decision. We'll support him, but at the end of the day, I think it's just going to come down to finances and what they actually put in front of him," Swinney said. "This is a very wise family, and I know they'll make a good decision. That's been my gut all along, but I didn't think he'd be drafted that high. That was a
little bit of a surprise to me."

Parker's departure would open up a quarterback competition between the untested duo of senior Mike Wade and former four-star recruit Tajh Boyd, a redshirt freshman.

For now, Parker has the chance to help break the hearts of the other half of Alabama's state population less than a week after Clemson eliminated Auburn with a 13-7 victory in which Parker hit his 20th homer of the season. Clemson's bats awoke as the Tigers scored in six of nine innings.

The winner of the Super Regional series will move on to face the Arkansas-Arizona State Super Regional winner at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. next week. Arizona State eliminated Clemson from the CWS last year.

Omaha was once an unlikely destination for the Tigers, who endured an inexplicable slide and lost five-straight games and nine of 12 in April.

"We hit a rough spot in the middle of the year," said Clemson outfielder Wilson Boyd. "This team has the ability to step up when it counted. We have really come together at this point in the season, and we are all on the same page. As long as we keep coming together, play hard and play for each other, I think things will take care of themselves."