Ex-Pirate Parker fights against Parkinson’s with optimistic attitude
Watching the Pirates during the team’s 20 consecutive losing seasons wasn’t always easy for Dave Parker.
There were times he didn’t watch — couldn’t watch — because of the outcomes.
“But once a Buc, always a Buc, and I’m a Buc,” Parker said during PirateFest on Sunday at David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Much has changed the past two years for the Pirates and Parker. The Pirates once again have become a winning team, boasting consecutive postseason appearances. Parker has battled Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnosed in February 2012, Parker said he has good days and bad days. The disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, and on Sunday a tremor came and went in Parker’s right arm as he sat at a table with fellow former Pirates players. So far, however, he is able to continue playing racquetball and golf and working out.
“They say, ‘Stay active,’ and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Parker, the 1978 National League MVP and two-time batting champion. “My golf score’s gotten lower since I had it, but I’d trade the score any day to get rid of this Parkinson’s.”
Omar Moreno, who posed for photos with Parker on Sunday, said he learned so much from playing alongside Parker in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
“He’s a special person,” Moreno said. “He taught me how to play the game, how to treat people. He helped me a lot. I still love him.”
Moreno and Parker praised the Pirates’ current outfield, and Parker said there certainly can be comparisons made between himself and Andrew McCutchen, particularly in their shared status as five-tool players.
What Parker would like to see from the Pirates, he said, is more of an ability to close the door on opponents.
“They’ve got to learn to put teams away,” Parker said. “When they’ve got teams down, they’ve got to step on their neck, and that’s something we did when I played in ’79. When we got a team down, they were done.”
As far as the battle he faces, Parker said he’s an optimist.
“I was very positive about my ability when I played baseball, like when the leaves turned brown I’d be wearing the batting crown,” he said. “I’m a fighter. I’m not a quitter.”
Note: The Pirates disputed a report in Sunday’s Valley News Dispatch that concerns after a physical exam impacted the signing of pitcher Radhames Liz. According to a Pirates source, Liz’s health did not affect contract negotiations. Liz signed a one-year contract Friday. General manager Neal Huntington declined to comment.