ARLINGTON, Texas — Robbie Parker didn’t think about anything on the mound Friday at Rangers Ballpark.
It helped him get through a very emotional first pitch before the Texas home opener.
Parker is the father of Emilie Parker, a 6-year old who was one of 26 people who died at the Newtown school shooting last year. He is a lifelong Rangers fan who took Emilie to her first Texas game when she was 3 months old.
“Luckily I think my mind finally went blank,” said Parker, who threw the first pitch to former Texas star Ivan Rodriguez. “My mind’s been racing for about three weeks and I finally just zoned out. I told Pudge (Rodriguez) right before ‘It’s just me and you here, right?’ As far as emotions go, it was really tough to try and keep my emotions out there. It was pretty amazing.”
Parker was accompanied to the mound by wife Alissa, daughters Samantha and Madeline and Texas outfielder David Murphy. Emilie’s favorite player was Murphy, who gave the Parker family the jersey he wore on Opening Day. The jersey has a ribbon on it to honor the Newtown victims.
Before the game, the Parkers got to meet with team CEO Nolan Ryan as well as former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. The family was greeted by members of the Rangers in the Texas dugout when the left the field.
Robbie Parker was born in Utah but spent part of his childhood in Arlington, Texas. When his family later moved from Texas to Newtown, his parents promised that he could go to a Rangers game every year.
The Rangers contacted Parker about throwing out the first pitch in February. He was honored to have the opportunity to remember his daughter in this way.
“Of course this is a very meaningful and amazing experience for our family,” said Parker. “I just want to make sure that we all remember exactly why we’re here. That’s because my daughter and 25 other people’s lives were lost in a very tragic accident. I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want anybody to ever lose sight of that.”
The event didn’t just impact Parker. Murphy found out a few weeks ago that he would be accompanying the family to the mound for the first pitch.
That didn’t make it any easier for Murphy, whose eyes watered in talking about the ceremony following the 3-2 Texas victory.
“That was a very humbling experience,” Murphy said. “I have three kids of my own. I can’t imagine what that would be like. It definitely makes the game a little easier. We’re worrying about winning and numbers. It makes you realize the insignificance of baseball.”
Murphy was impressed with the courage the family has shown in the wake of the tragedy.
“It would be easy to feel like your life is in a tailspin,” Murphy said. “Just their attitudes and their good nature. I didn’t get to spend but a few minutes with them. I didn’t really get to exchange many words with them, but they’re a beautiful family.”