All-Star Parnell comes full circle

Flashbulbs popped, fans applauded and the ball streaked through the night sky. It wasn't exactly the seventh game of the World Series, but the first pitch of the first-ever New York-Penn League All-Star Game needed to be captured nevertheless.

PREMIUM AUDIO: Bobby Parnell discusses his All-Star performance with Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch:

The secret had been out for some time that there would be a gathering of the NY-PL's finest this summer at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn.

What was the surprise to Bobby Parnell was that he'd be the one standing on the mound , bathed in his Cyclones red, white and blue, firing a fastball to William Rhymes of the Oneonta Tigers to get everything started off.

"It's an All-Star Game. That's something people dream about," Parnell said. "I came into the season expecting to do good, but not expecting to make an All-Star game. That's for the first-round draft picks. I felt like I was capable of making it, but never thought I would. It was a real treat to be out here."

Parnell pitched two innings in the exhibition contest, allowing a run on two hits while striking out four.

He was long out of the game by the time his NL All-Stars, including Cyclones teammate Joe Holden and the sidelined Josh Petersen, defeated their AL counterparts, 5-4, but for the 20-year-old right-hander from Salisbury, N.C., the decision wouldn't have meant much.

Rather, a decision of another kind has already been reached – after a less-than-stellar collegiate career, Parnell has proven he has what it takes to compete at the collegiate level.

A ninth-round pick out of Charleston Southern University, Parnell knew he was opening some eyes, but not as much as he'd hoped – and perhaps not for the reasons prospects want to. He posted a 5.03 ERA as a freshman, which rose to 6.82 in his sophomore year and topped out at 8.86 as a junior.

"I felt like I had room for improvement and had something to strive for," Parnell said. "I wasn't happy with my college career."

This year with Brooklyn, Parnell's numbers are much more palatable. He went into the All-Star Game with a 1.76 ERA through 12 starts, holding New York-Penn League hitters to a paltry .184 average with 37 hits in 56.1 innings pitched.

Parnell credits Cyclones pitching coach Steve Merriman, plus a consistent starting role (at Charleston Southern, Parnell was a staff jack-of-all-trades, trying his hand at middle relief and closing as well), for his success this year.

With Merriman's help, Parnell is finding better movement on his change-up and slider, working on his consistency and leg kick while learning that he doesn't have to throw at maximum effort on every pitch to be effective.

"In college, I didn't have that much confidence in my stuff," Parnell said. "When I got here, I said I was going to start from ground zero. I've had early success and I credit that to just relaxing and starting to trust my stuff."

"A lot of credit goes to Bobby Parnell for working on the changes that we had identified and wanted him to make," Merriman said. "If a player's not willing to make a change, then he's not going to get any better."

Suddenly, the tall, lanky hurler who says he was "nobody from nowhere" a few years ago is on the path to being a well-recognized prospect. Tuesday's All-Star Game appearance was a significant step, Parnell said, but it's not the ultimate prize.

"I don't know if I'm somebody yet," Parnell said. "Maybe if I'm up on the Mets and I pitch in their All-Star Game. I'm not going to stop until I get there."

Max Dworin contributed to this article.

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