Mckenzie Parker on growing up a Longhorn and ‘flipping the switch’ with Texas softball

Jaclyn Helton

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 20 issue of The Daily Texan.

McKenzie Parker said she was born to be a Texas Longhorn.

The sophomore infielder grew up in Conroe, Texas, a suburb outside of Houston, where she was raised by die-hard Texas fans Leslie and Ronald Parker alongside her little brother Bryce. From an early age, Parker says her family instilled in her a love for the University which in turn motivated her to one day play for Texas.

“Growing up — my family, for generations, (have) always been UT and Longhorn fans — I would come to football games, softball games, baseball games, it’s always run through our blood,” Parker said at a media availability April 14.

After three consecutive First Team All-District selections at Willis High School, Parker’s dream of playing at Texas turned into a reality.

Once on the Forty Acres, Parker received extensive playing time with 27 starts in 41 games. But the freshman didn’t see the same success as she had at Willis, hitting merely .250 on the season. She faced more adversity in her 2020 campaign when the season was cut short due to COVID-19 after Parker played in only seven of the team’s 27 games.

The lack of playing time had nothing to do with physical attributes but everything to do with a lack of production, head coach Mike White said at an April 14 media availability.

“I’ve had two years of experience with McKenzie,” White said. “It wasn’t the lack of being able to do some things athletically — she’s got a big arm, she’s got a big bat, she moves well, but she just didn’t play her best in the games.”

Entering a make-or-break 2021 year, Parker began the season much like she ended the last one: on the bench. Parker started only three of the teams first eight games as she found herself in a reserve position behind freshman shortstop Alyssa Washington. After March 12, she made 21 consecutive starts.

“The switch flipped,” White said of Parker.

As Washington underwent some predictable freshman growing pains in the batter’s box, Parker took over for the team at shortstop. While Washington still started 19 games on the year, Parker has blossomed as a mainstay in the lineup with a .414 batting average, five home runs and 18 RBI.

“McKenzie (Parker) took over and hasn’t let up since,” White said.

The Longhorns are now into conference play with a 31-6 overall record, and Parker’s power at the plate combined with her athleticism and sure hands in the field has made her the crowned jewel on the No. 7-ranked team in the nation.

For Parker, the surreal nature of playing for her favorite team is starting to set in, and she’s taking advantage of the opportunity.

“Growing up and being able to finally get here, I can look back and be like, ‘Wow, I literally did it,’” Parker said.