By Jon Mahoney, Special to SI.com, SchoolSports.com
The thought of batting practice may not seem too exciting to the average fan, but it has turned into quite an event for the Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) baseball team. Earlier this season, as many as 25 Major League Baseball scouts would line up to watch the sweet left-handed swing of senior slugger Chris Parmelee.
Luckily for the scouts, they were watching from behind the backstop. After all, when it comes to Parmelee's tape-measure home runs, nobody is safe. Just ask the Chino Hills softball team, which practices 400-plus feet from the baseball diamond's home plate but has often come close to getting hit by one of Parmelee's blasts.
In fact, that was actually the case earlier this spring for an unfortunate member of the football team, which was practicing without pads on the softball field when Parmelee hit a homer so far that it nailed the kid square in the back. It's a good bet the player, who ended up being OK, didn't think he'd get hit that day without pads on, especially from a baseball that traveled more than 400 feet.
Parmelee, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound first baseman/outfielder/pitcher who's rated the nation's No. 4 high school baseball prospect in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports.com, doesn't just unleash his power display during batting practice, which is bad news for Chino Hills opponents.
Glendora found that out firsthand this season when leading Chino Hills in the top of the sixth inning, 1-0. Up came Parmelee, who blasted a solo shot that was estimated at 450 feet to dead center but is probably still traveling.
"He doesn't have a prototypical power swing, but his bat speed is so fast that the ball rockets off his bat," says Chino Hills fifth-year head coach Kyle Billingsley. "He has definite big league power."
Of course, there is one small drawback. You'd hate to punish a kid for such immense power, but Parmelee's homerun stroke has led to a lot of extra running.
"He costs us a lot of balls," says Billingsley, who projects Parmelee as a left fielder at the next level. "How we control it now is that if you hit it, you go get it."
Parmelee started playing ball when he was 5. And even at that time, it was evident he had power beyond his years. "I just seemed to make contact every time," he says. "It stood out."
Billingsley initially witnessed Parmelee's power during the first day of tryouts his freshman year. Billingsley had heard of Parmelee beforehand, but the "wow factor" set in when the slugger started rocketing balls out of the park.
That season, Parmelee batted .471 with five homers and 19 RBI for a varsity squad that played a JV schedule. Chino Hills opened in 2001-02, but the Huskies didn't field an official varsity team until Parmelee's sophomore season.
It may sound strange now, but during that freshman season, Billingsley actually thought Parmelee had more potential on the mound.
"I really liked his pitching because he was a left-handed pitcher that threw hard with good command," says Billingsley, who is using Parmelee as his closer this season. "But over the years, his hitting far surpassed his pitching."