Parker Joe Robinson never faced any on-field obstacles growing up in South Orange County.
The son of a former major league pitcher, Robinson was always one of the best baseball players, no matter what team he joined.
He starred for the Saddleback Cowboys travel ball club as a youth, and then did the same at JSerra High School, earning OC Register and Trinity League player of the year honors as a senior in 2014.
After leading JSerra to the Trinity League title and into the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, Robinson appeared headed for another big-time role at the University of Texas.
But after redshirting his first year in Austin, seeing very limited action as a freshman, and then watching longtime head coach Augie Garrido retire after the 2016 season, Robinson was thrown a cold dose of reality by incoming coach David Pierce.
“I tried to take his scholarship away from him because I didn’t think he could pitch here,” Pierce told the Austin American-Statesman.
Robinson had come too far to give up now, so he accepted a last-ditch suggestion by Pierce to save his spot on the team.
Change the way he had always pitched a baseball.
Pierce asked Robinson to try a side-arm delivery, rather than the typical over-the-top motion by power pitchers. The alteration changes the rotation of the ball and gives pitches more side-to-side movement.
It’s a change former teammate Collin Quinn made while both were at JSerra a couple years earlier and led to terrific results for Quinn.
Robinson knew he had to be patient with his makeover, however.
“There were some rough days, but there was also lots of promise,” Robinson said. “There were some days I’d get out there and be like ‘this is perfect, I love what I’m doing.’ Then I’d go out there the next day and it’d be the exact opposite, no clue what’s going on.”
Robinson was limited to seven appearances out of the bullpen as a sophomore in 2017, but the comfort level with his new delivery continued to evolve and so did his role with the Longhorns.
Heading into the final weekend in April, Robinson was 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 12 relief appearances for Texas. He had struck out 19 batters in 16 1/3 innings.
“I went out over summer ball and got my work in, and next thing you know, I’m getting big innings out of the bullpen,” Robinson said. “It’s fun. It’s always good to be in the games, and I’ve just had a good time with it.”
Robinson’s father, Jeff Robinson, played for Troy High School in Fullerton in the late 1970s. He went on to star for Garrido at Cal State Fullerton in the early 1980s, a tie that helped land Parker Joe on the Longhorns.
Jeff Robinson was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the 1983 major league draft and played nine seasons in the big leagues, including the 1991 season with the Los Angeles Angels.
Robinson spent time as an assistant coach at JSerra while his son played there. He’s the one who encouraged Quinn to stick with his sidearm delivery after his velocity didn’t improve early in his high school career.
Little did Robinson realize, his son would make a similar alteration a couple years later, one that also seems to be keeping him one step ahead of the competition.