What's Gerardo Parra's favorite thing to do on a baseball field?
"Hitting," the star outfielder of the Mobile BayBears says with a chuckle through teammate and translator Orlando Mercado. "I love to hit."
That should come as no surprise as the 21-year-old left-handed hitting Venezuelan has provided Minor League Baseball with ample evidence of his affection for connecting bat with ball.
Now in his third season of professional baseball, Parra is batting .309 for his career and has displayed a consistency at each level that projects well as he continues his ascension.
He's reached one peak already, earning a spot on the World team at the All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium on July 13.
"I've got no words for it," Parra said. "It's like a dream come true, especially in the last year of Yankee Stadium, to get a chance to play there."
It's been a quick climb to stardom for Parra, who was signed by Arizona in 2004 and came to the United States two years later at the age of 19. In his first season stateside, the outfielder hit .328 for the Missoula Osprey of the Rookie-level Pioneer League. A year later, he moved up to South Bend of the Class A Midwest League, scorching opposing pitching to the tune of a .320 average in 110 games.
That landed Parra another promotion to the Visalia Oaks of the Class A Advanced California League, where he batted .295 in 74 contests across two seasons. He earned his way to Double-A Mobile with those numbers, becoming the youngest player on the BayBears by nearly two years.
"He's finding some challenges at Double-A that he didn't have to face at the lower levels, which is great for his development and maturity," said A.J. Hinch, the Diamondbacks' Director of Player Development.
Hinch cited increased exposure to left-handed pitching and more difficult travel as some of the bigger adjustments Parra has had to make in Mobile.
Parra is certainly seeing southpaws more often. In 50 games with Visalia, he had just 60 at-bats against lefties and hit .317. In 30 games for the BayBears, he's batting only .216 in 51 at-bats against left-handers.
Overall, Parra is hitting .250 for Mobile, due in large part to a recent 5-for-38 slump.
"For me, it's the same baseball, just a little different," Parra said. "It's the same baseball game I've been playing all my life. I feel happy to be in Double-A here playing in Mobile because I can get more experience, more competition."
As much as Parra enjoys hitting, it might be the other things he can do that helped him garner the plane ticket to the Bronx. His speed makes him a threat on the basepaths with 17 steals this season, and helps him patrol any of the three outfield positions, though he has spent most of his time in center.
"He does a lot of things well and plays a controlled game on the field," Hinch said. "He puts up consistent at-bats and is a tough out. Defensively, he covers ground well and throws very well. So, in essence, the fact that he is well-rounded is the best part of his game."
Hinch added that Arizona would like to see a little more power and selectivity from Parra, but those qualities frequently improve with experience.
It is sometimes tough to remember that Parra, having turned 21 in May, is still one of the youngest players at Double-A. Despite his youth, however, he brings a level-headed approach to the ballpark each day, meaning you won't find him pressing at the plate or antsy for another promotion.
After all, he recognizes he's not the one in control.
"I know I'm really close [to the Majors], but I just put it in God's hands and take it day-by-day, step-by-step, league-by-league," Parra said. "When I'm ready, they'll know and they'll call me up to the big leagues."
For now, though, he's just enjoying the ride that's taken him to the United States, Mobile and to Yankee Stadium next week.
As long as he gets to keep hitting.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.