Calm and talented: Three-sport star Parker Applegate leaves a legacy at Riverton
May 27, 2020 12:48PM
By Travis Barton
Parker Applegate will take his baseball talents to Utah State University Eastern next year where he signed a baseball scholarship. “It's a blessing I get to go there and play,” he said. (Photo by Dave Sanderson/dsandersonpics.com)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
It was overtime in the second game of the season this past December. On the road at Murray, Riverton basketball was tied at 52 with time for one last shot.
Riverton head coach Skyler Wilson called a play to get senior sharpshooter Parker Applegate the ball. Though the play broke down, Applegate kept running to get open and eventually found the ball in the corner.
“He hit one of the most amazing shots you'll ever see,” Wilson said. “Just a fade away three-pointer at the buzzer right in front of our bench” to win 55-52.
“He was the one when we needed an important bucket, he'd get it for us,” Wilson said.
And basketball might not even be Applegate’s best sport.
The three-sport athlete and graduating senior recently signed a baseball scholarship to Utah State University Eastern.
Applegate played golf, basketball and baseball for Riverton during his four years at the school. In an era when kids tend to specialize in one sport as they grow up, Applegate kept playing the three sports he’d played his whole life.
“I just loved it; I had fun doing every single one of them,” he said.
His high school coaches—Wilson, who also coaches the golf team—and his baseball coach Jay Applegate (who also happens to be his dad) would agree that playing multiple sports proved beneficial for Parker.
The younger Applegate said doing both golf and baseball helped with his swings.
For the elder Applegate, he can list the advantages. “They don’t get burned out, they’re always in a competitive situation, they have to stay up on their grades,” he said.
“I think there's so many positives and life lessons that athletes can take by playing multiple sports,” Jay said. “The baseball field, basketball court and golf course are one of the greatest laboratories for kids in athletics to not only learn to excel as a player but to take that into life and become a good person.”
Wilson agrees, noting how it’s not only the physical skills that can transfer between sports but the mental side as well.
Parker could rely on his cross-sport experience, whether it’s shooting a free throw at the end of a game, hitting an important putt to win a tournament or stepping to the plate for a late-inning at-bat, Wilson said.
“He was just so mentally tough and able to respond to high pressure situations,” Wilson said.
Some of that could be attributed to his demeanor. Known for being quiet, with a strong work ethic, Parker was the type to lead by example and let his play do the talking.
Wilson remembers down the stretch of the golf season, when they needed to win four of their final five matches to win region and pulling up in the golf cart to watch Parker.
“We couldn't tell whether he was playing great or playing awful every time we saw him because he was so level-headed, calm,” Wilson said.
While his calm improved his sporting ability, sports also improved Parker’s life. He’s not a big talker, Parker said, being on the shy, quieter side, but “playing all these sports has made me kind of express myself since I don't really do that.”
He pointed out golf especially where they play two on two with different schools every tournament, where he’s forced into talking with those on other teams.
“Golf especially has helped me with my social life I guess,” Parker said.
Aside from the mental and social sides of athletics, Parker was pretty talented too.
He was a two-time All-Region player in golf, where they won back-to-back region titles. In basketball, he was also a two-time All-Region player and made third-team All-State as a junior. And in possibly his best sport, he was named first-team All-State as shortstop his junior year, hitting .388.
“He's one of the rare high school athletes that I've seen not only play three sports but excel at each one,” Wilson said. “He was one of the best pure shooters I've ever coached for basketball.”
Jay, who has coached Riverton baseball since the school was built, before Parker was born, said he and his wife knew early on their son had athletic talent.
Both coaches highlighted his hand-eye coordination and competitive drive.
“He's been a kid that I haven't had to push at all,” Jay said. “This is his love; he loves to do it. He'll always be out on our basketball court at home shooting or hitting off the tee or going golfing.”
Parker attributes his abilities mostly to practice and the juggling he started in middle school. He can do three pretty easy but can get up to four.
In an interesting bit of symmetry, Wilson graduated from Riverton where he had Jay as one of his basketball coaches. “I feel really fortunate to coach him all these years over two sports, to have the influence over his life is really great,” Wilson said. “It’s what makes sports and coaching so rewarding and worthwhile.”
While Parker points to the golf region titles and playoff basketball wins, both he and Jay remember the 2018 baseball state championship games for the most memorable high school moment.
The Silverwolves finished runner-up to Bingham that year, needing to beat the Miners twice and only getting one. Parker remembers the atmosphere around the experience, the team camaraderie, being able to compete at that level and not realizing as a sophomore how cool it was because “it’s so hard to get there.”
The first game, where Riverton won 7-0, saw Parker (who played third base as a sophomore) have two base hits, an RBI and turned a double play off his knees.
“I was just in heaven,” Jay recalled. “I was so happy for him being a sophomore on that stage and coming through.”
Perhaps that moment can override the most recent baseball memory, the season being cut short after three games due to the pandemic.
For Parker, his dad has coached Riverton since he was born, grown up around the program going to practices, baseball trips. “I just always wanted to play high school,” he said.
Parker said he and his other eight seniors were “shocked almost” when they learned the season was canceled. They were supposed to play in a tournament down in Las Vegas. “We were just mad about that,” he said. “We thought there was no way the whole season gets canceled.”
It was definitely tough, Jay said. “I guess the word devastation is fair to use, but I think they handled it really well for what it’s worth,” he said.
The senior class eventually adopted an “it is what it is” mantra. “We can’t do anything about it,” Parker said.
Which is exactly what Jay said they aim to teach every year: Control what you can.
“Only worry about things you can control, and it'll alleviate a lot of the stress and negative things that happen in sports and in life.”