Happy Mother’s Day, baseball-style: How 1 mom put 2 sons into the Detroit Tigers’ system

Detroit Free Press

Staci Meadows talks to her two boys — Austin and Parker — just about every day, usually by text. So when Austin called on April 4 at a strange time, she was nervous.

“Of course, my heart stops for a moment,” she said.

“Mom, where’s Dad?” he said.

“I have no idea,” she said. “He’s somewhere in the house.”

They had several people over for a big dinner and game night.

“Go get him,” Austin said.

“Is everything OK?” Staci asked.

“I’ve been traded,” Austin said.

“Oh my God, where?” she asked.

Austin, 27, had already been through this once. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 9 overall) in 2013. He made his MLB debut with the Pirates in May 2018, then was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays just over two months later. With the Rays, he made the 2019 AL All-Star team, but there were rumors that Austin was about to be traded again at the end of spring training. Most of the rumors involved West Coast teams.

“Mom, don’t freak out,” Austin said. “Go get Dad.”

She found her husband, Kenny, and everybody got on the phone.

“I’ve been traded to the Tigers,” Austin said.

Staci didn’t believe it.

“No,” she said. “Bull.”

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Staci checked the date, wondering if it was an elaborate April’s Day Fools prank.

But it wasn’t.

“So I go outside,” Staci said. “We have a pool in the backyard with a hot tub.”

Her son Parker, 22, the Detroit Tigers‘ No. 19 prospect (according to MLB Pipeline), was in the hot tub. While driving from Lakeland, Florida, to Grand Rapids to open the season with the West Michigan Whitecaps, he had stopped at his parents’ home in Georgia for the night.

“Parker, your brother is on the phone,” Staci said.

“What’s wrong?” Parker said.

Before she could hand him the phone, Parker’s phone started blowing up.

“I mean, all of his teammates were already like, ‘Oh, my God, your brother’s coming to the Tigers,’” Staci said.

Everybody was stunned. The Tigers hadn’t been mentioned in any trade rumors. But the Tigers needed an outfielder after Riley Greene — one of Parker’s close friends and spring-training roommates — suffered a broken foot.

The first thing Parker said to his big brother: “I’m coming for your job.”

He was joking, of course.

“We’re all just like, ‘what is happening?’” Staci said. “Then, once it sank it, it was so cool — and I already have all the Tigers gear.”

Now, Staci finds herself in a surprising situation in the Tigers organization, especially on Mother’s Day. She is the only mom with two boys in the system. Austin is the Tigers’ starting left fielder and one of the team’s best hitters; Parker has already climbed to Double-A Erie, two promotions from joining his brother in Detroit.

“We are so proud of both of them,” Staci said. “They support each other so much — that is truly what makes me the proudest.”

If you needed an extra dose of love on Mother’s Day — a Hallmark-worthy message from the sports world — here you go.

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From Parker: “My mom means the world to me. She just cares about us so much. She’s our world and we are her world.”

Not to be outdone, Austin shared a similar sentiment: “She means everything. She’s always been there for us through adversity and the hard times and the good times. She means the world to me.”

It runs in the family

So how does somebody raise a couple of professional baseball players?

Start with genetics.

Staci played college softball at Georgia Southern and transferred to Georgia State. “I would consider myself a power hitter,” she said.

“When you make contact,” Kenny joked.

“I think, honestly, we got most of our athletic ability from her,” Parker said. “Don’t tell my dad that.”

We’ll keep that our little secret.

“I remember when I would go to Austin’s games, she would always throw with some of the dads and show off her arm,” Parker said. “You never really knew where it was going, but she could throw the crap out of the ball, and I think she still has it a little bit.”

Kenny was also an outstanding athlete. He played both football and baseball for four years at Morehead State in Kentucky, where he played safety and punter.

“Both of them were super-athletic,” Parker said. “And luckily, it kind of carried over to us.”

The two boys started playing baseball when they were 3, but they tried just about every other sport, too.

“We encouraged them to play everything,” Kenny said. “They played basketball, football, even soccer when they were younger. In football, Austin won a state championship and Parker was a quarterback. They just found the love of baseball and stayed with it. ”

The entire family has lived the baseball life, from travel ball to the pros.

All the games and hotels and practices and week-long tournaments and road trips have left this family extremely close.

“Absolutely,” Staci said. “We were together on the road all the time.”

“Not everybody can relate to this,” Kenny said. “Others are like, ‘We’re going on vacation. Just a normal vacation to the beach or whatever.’ And we were like, ‘We’re going to play baseball. We enjoy these trips. It’s our vacation.’”

“Every year,” Staci said.

And now they are crisscrossing the country, following their boys in pro ball. They usually travel with Staci’s mom.

This weekend, they are in Erie to watch Parker play for the SeaWolves.

“We are here!” Staci texted from Erie. “Not sure we came with enough warm clothes!”

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Double the stress

“What’s it like having two boys play pro ball?” I asked.

“Stressful,” Kenny said.

“It’s definitely a roller coaster,” Staci said. “I mean, there are high highs and there are really low lows. As a mom, I worry and they tease me every day about it. But I’m their mom. I ask them, ‘Are you eating well? Are you sleeping? Are you getting good rest?’ Parker’s got a cold right now. And I’m like, ‘Are you taking something?’ You know, it’s just constantly being a mom still.”

Sometimes, both boys are playing at the same time, so they set it up so they can watch both games at once. One on a TV. The other on a computer.

Kenny and the boys’ grandmother watch the boys when they bat — sometimes at the same time — but Staci gets too nervous. She goes outside and starts a project or walks their dog Ruby, a black lab.

“I do a lot of pacing,” Staci said. “Let’s just say the neighbors know when my boys are playing because I will walk the dog or they’ll see me out back.”

“All kinds of projects get done,” Kenny said.

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Brotherly love

The two brothers follow each other closely. Austin will walk through the Tigers clubhouse, bragging about how Parker did the night before. He has tremendous pride in his younger brother.

And Austin is having a fantastic season. He is arguably the team’s best hitter. But he tries to view it with an even keel — something he learned from his mother, a third-grade teacher.

“The main thing I’ve learned from her is to keep your head up through adversity,” Austin said. “Through the hard times and the good times. Because we’ve had plenty of those already.”

After starting out in High-A, Parker was promoted to Double-A on April 25.

“I feel really good right now,” Parker said. “Most importantly, my body feels good. I feel healthy.”

After hitting .230 with four homers for the Whitecaps, Parker hit .154 in his first nine games in Erie.

“Obviously, struggling right now a little bit, but I know that’s just part of the game,” Parker said. “I know it’s been all come back together. So I’m as confident as ever and feeling good.”

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Together at Comerica Park?

There is only one thing that could make this better.

Can you imagine what it would be like if Parker continues to climb through the Tigers system and the two boys play together?

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to get out there soon and play with him,” Parker said. “That’d be awesome.”

That’s one of Staci’s dreams now, too.

“It would just be unbelievable,” she said.

But this is a baseball mom. One who has already seen the business side of the sport.

“We understand baseball and the business of it,” she said. “We don’t know the chances of that.”

Those are the words of a baseball mom.

Full of hope and never-ending encouragement.

But always with a dash of realism.

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Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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