Being in a different organization for the first time in his professional career, Orioles outfielder-first baseman Chris Parmelee compares this spring training to being the new kid in school.
"You've been in one school your whole life, and now you're meeting new guys," Parmelee said. "I'm just kind of learning how to do things here. That's pretty much my main focus, coming from a new organization for the first time since I got drafted, you kind of sit back and watch, see how they do things, try to pick the coaches' brains a little bit, some of the players, too."
Parmelee, who turns 27 on Tuesday, is certainly getting the most out of arriving at school. Even though position players aren't required to report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex until Tuesday, Parmelee has been here since the first day to get a head start on his new opportunity with the Orioles.
It wasn't that long ago when Parmelee, a consensus top 100 prospect entering the 2007 season, showed potential in the minor leagues with the Minnesota Twins. The organization saw the 2006 first-round pick as the eventual replacement to Justin Morneau at first base.
But in parts of four seasons with the Twins, Parmelee struggled to duplicate his minor league success in the major leagues, and he found himself as a free agent this winter after Minnesota designated him for assignment in December.
"It didn't click for me as fast or the way I would have liked it to, but this is a new opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it," Parmelee said. "I got my at-bats. Did I have the opportunity? Absolutely. But it's just the way it goes sometimes."
Still, the left-handed-hitting Parmelee's promise drew interest as a handful of teams came calling.
After deciding to sign a minor league deal with the Orioles, he comes to camp with an outside shot of making the Opening Day roster. But he said he also knows that the Orioles have a history of giving players an opportunity, as executive vice president Dan Duquette likes to sign former first-round picks like Parmelee.
"I didn't want to make a selection to a team where I wasn't going to have chance at all," Parmelee said. "I've got a chance to make the big league club here, so that's the part that enticed me, and the winning atmosphere. It's been tough the past couple years where I was at. I wish those guys nothing but the best … but I'm excited to be here."
Parmelee gives the Orioles an option at first base, left field and right field. He has improved defensively over the years, making just one error and recording three assists in 43 starts in the outfield last season, so he fits the team's emphasis on defense.
And at the major league level, he has held his own against left-handed pitching, batting .261 in 207 at-bats against southpaws. He also has had success at Camden Yards, going 7-for-21 with one home run and six RBIs in nine games.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter often talks about signing players at the right time in their careers, and the club has mined their share of players who flourished after struggling elsewhere.
"[He's] been kind of a Four-A type," Showalter said about Parmelee. "A good first baseman, he's worked hard to be a good outfielder. He's kind of interesting. You can go back to where Steve Pearce was in his career at the same stage [and compare]. … That was a good addition for us."
Parmelee comes to the Orioles knowing a few players. He played with shortstop J.J. Hardy with the Twins in spring training of 2010. Reliever Brad Brach was a teammate in the Arizona Fall League. He played against Travis Snider often in Triple-A, and he played with Oliver Drake this past offseason in winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
Hardy remembers the buzz that surrounded Parmelee as a highly-touted prospect with the Twins.
"I remember him being a good player, a really good hitter," Hardy said. "He could go the other way pretty well. I remember him being good, and I thought he'd be up, but we had a really good team in 2010.
"Justin Morneau was there, so he was kind of blocked. In spring training that year, I didn't know half the guys, but he definitely stood out. I knew he was good."
Over the offseason, the Orioles placed an emphasis on adding on-base capabilities, especially with the departure of leadoff hitter Nick Markakis to the Atlanta Braves in free agency.
Parmelee has a career .363 on-base percentage in the minor leagues, including .395 at the Triple-A level. But in 273 major league games with the Twins, Parmelee's on-base percentage was only .317.
"The strike zone is a little bit smaller at the major league level, so working walks might be a little bit easier, but at the same time, they throw the ball over the plate more, so they give you more stuff to hit," Parmelee said. "It kind of goes hand in hand. You try your best to do what you can to translate that to the best of your abilities. Working an at-bat is a constant battle for everybody, and I'm doing my best to translate that the way I can."
Part of Parmelee's on-base success in Triple-A could be attributed to his high walk rate. In parts of three seasons at Triple-A Rochester, Parmelee walked 14.1 percent of the time. In the majors, he only has walked 8.8 percent of the time, which is near the league average.
"Obviously, walks help, and having a good-eye up there and knowing in certain situations in the game that you're willing to take a walk when they're not intentionally walking you, but they're not giving you anything to hit hard," Parmelee said. "Running balls out, just getting on base period, whether you roll over something and you rush a fielder on making a throw and he overthrows it and gets the error, you're still on base. Just doing the small things right is really key to that on-base percentage, taking what they give you.
"I may not be the fastest guy out there, but as long as you're on base, you give the guy hitting behind you and your other teammates a better chance to hit you in and get their stats up and, in the grand scheme of things, win the ballgame."
Parmelee said he hopes that he can show the Orioles he can do that. And even though he only has been in camp a few days — and the competition for roster spots has yet to start — Parmelee said he feels like his new home is a good one.
"Sometimes you have a feeling and you kind of know," he said. "I like these guys here so far. The relationships I'm going to make with these guys is only going to get better. …