Parry, volunteer coach, leaves Arkansas in year full of firsts

By: Matt Jones
Published: Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Arkansas volunteer coach Craig Parry instructs during practice Thursday, May 31, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas volunteer coach Craig Parry instructs during practice Thursday, May 31, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Craig Parry has had a memorable first half of 2018.

As a volunteer coach at Arkansas, Parry had the opportunity to coach in the College World Series for the first time, including in the championship round. During the season, Parry and his wife, Morgan, found out they would be parents for the first time.

And shortly following the Razorbacks' long run in Omaha that ended last week, Parry accepted a position as hitting coach at Abilene Christian, his first full-time job in Division I baseball. Parry began his role with ACU on Monday.

"It's a lot at once," Parry said Tuesday. "I don't know if words can describe how special of a year it has been for us personally, and also collectively here at Arkansas with this special group that we had."

Parry, 32, was new head coach Rick McCarty's first hire in Abilene. Parry and McCarty worked together for one season at Dallas Baptist after McCarty took over as pitching coach in the fall of 2015. At DBU, McCarty replaced Wes Johnson, now the pitching coach at Arkansas.

"We just coached together one year, but we obviously developed a pretty good bond," Parry said of McCarty. "I apparently made enough of an impact on him that he called me as the first guy he wanted to hire.

"It's exciting to go to work with and for a guy that I'm really familiar with. Morgan and his family, and his wife and their kids - there is a bond outside of just coaching. There is a friendship there that obviously makes working together more enjoyable."

Parry was born in Huntsville, Texas, but graduated high school in Montana and played college baseball at South Dakota State. Counting his time at DBU, Parry said he has lived 13 years in Texas.

But Parry said it was difficult to leave Arkansas, his wife's home state.

"It's a special place, man," Parry said, "between the people I got to work with, learn from, the players that we had this year, clearly the fans and everything that comes with that support.

"Morgan has been a lifelong Hog fan, long before we ever met. Being able to live that out and share that with her has been something that was really cool."

Like many of the volunteer coaches before him, Parry verbally committed to spend two years at Arkansas, but with the understanding he had the blessing to leave if a full-time job came along prior to completing two years. Volunteers are unpaid by the university and make their living working camps and teaching private lessons.

The future of the volunteer position is in doubt after the Southeastern Conference submitted a proposal that would allow teams to hire a third full-time assistant coach. That vote is expected by the NCAA membership sometime next year and, if passed, could be in place by the 2020 season.

Parry is the second Arkansas volunteer to leave after just one season in Fayetteville. Josh Elander was hired as a hitting coach at Tennessee last summer. Both Parry and Elander worked with the Razorbacks' catchers and coached first base.

"It's part of the profession," Parry said. "You've got to be willing to make some moves.

"A lot of times in this profession you can't control when those opportunities come."

Parry came to Arkansas after one season as a full-time assistant coach at Southern Arkansas, a Division II program in Magnolia. Prior to that he was a volunteer coach for three seasons at Dallas Baptist.

Abilene Christian is coming off a 21-33 season in which it was 5-25 in the Southland Conference and finished in last place for the second consecutive season. The Wildcats have not had a winning record since 2013.

"The Southland is a pretty good baseball conference and has produced some pretty good teams over the years, so it's exciting from that front," Parry said. "It's a Division I job with a lot of responsibility, so I'm looking forward to that."

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