For most of his baseball career, Ryan Parquette has thrived by figuring things out on his own.
Parquette discovered he is adept at visual learning. So the 2017 Crystal Lake South graduate watched major league catchers and mimicked how they did things.
Parquette, now a sophomore at McHenry County College, applied that to hitting as well. Some adjustments with how he held the bat between his junior and senior seasons at South helped make a huge difference at the plate.
Always an outstanding defender behind the plate, Parquette became an offensive force. He hit .440 and knocked in 37 runs for the Gators’ 2017 Class 4A state championship team, then followed that with one of the best offensive seasons in MCC history while earning Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Player of the Year honors as a freshman last spring.
Parquette, who is gearing up for his sophomore season at MCC, signed last month with NCAA Division I Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and will play with the Fighting Camels for the 2020 season. Scots left-handed pitcher John Vanderploeg will join Parquette with the Camels.
“He was great last year, hitting in the (No.) 1 or 2 hole all year for us,” Scots coach Jared Wacker said. “He finished in the top four or five in the nation in hit by pitch, so he plays with some toughness. He’s not loud, but he plays with a lot of confidence.”
Parquette hit .430 with 34 extra-base hits for the Scots (44-14) last spring. He had nine home runs and drove in 66 runs while scoring a program-record 85 runs. He led the Northwest Herald area with 59 hits while batting in the No. 2 spot for South’s state champion team.
Parquette attributed his offensive improvement to having a better mental approach, along with an adjustment with his hands.
“From junior to senior year of high school, my hands were loosened a lot more,” Parquette said. “My junior year, I was really tight, very tense in the upper half. I just did it on my own. I videoed myself and compared myself to pro guys to see what I could be doing differently.”
Last year, MCC assistant coach Matt Schmidt helped Parquette refine his offense even more. Schmidt, a Jacobs graduate, moved on to take an assistant coaching job at Chicago State.
“[Schmidt] helped me develop more power by adding more of a stride, getting wider on making contact with the ball,” Parquette said. “That’s where all the home runs came from.”
Campbell’s coaches saw Parquette in fall showcase tournaments, either in Indianapolis or Springfield. He started talking with coach Justin Haire and his staff in October and visited the school in November.
That level of offensive production along with Parquette’s defense made him a D-I prospect and eventually could get him drafted by a major league team.
“Being a catcher, he always knew the strike zone well,” South coach Brian Bogda said. “It was finding the pitches he could drive, and it was him putting it all together. His senior year, he was so reliable. From an offensive standpoint, everything kind of clicked. What a tremendous career he ended up with here. It’s pretty cool to see him continue it.”
Both Wacker and Bogda think Parquette will get drafted at some point. As a junior college player, he is draft-eligible this spring. NCAA players can be drafted after their junior seasons.
“I knew coming in he was a really good defensive catcher,” Wacker said. “He’s really athletic and moves well and frames [pitches] really well. He probably put on 10 pounds of muscle in the summer between his senior year and when he got here in the fall. As he’s matured physically, it’s helped take his offensive game to the next level.”
Wacker said pro scouts attended MCC’s fall games to scout Parquette and Huntley graduate Jeff Heinrich, in particular, regarding draft possibilities. Bogda said some teams had scouted Parquette while he was in high school.
“I definitely think there’s a chance,” Wacker said. “He’s definitely on the radar, and if he can have another productive year, there’s going to be the potential he can play pro ball.”