Special photo Jerry Parks, a Buford graduate and former GM employee, works security at Coolray Field for Gwinnett Braves games.
Jerry B. Parks, 61, works security at the Gwinnett Braves' Coolray Field. The 1967 Buford High School graduate has lived in Gwinnett County his entire life and picked up the job out of retirement from General Motors in 2000.
The Air Force veteran, who works the player entrance gate among other places at the ballpark, talks with staff writer Ben Beitzel about adding his middle initial to his name, charming his wife at a grocery store and which players are most gracious with their time to autograph seekers after games in this installment of "Getting to Know..."
BB: How long did you work for GM?
JP: Thirty years. They closed our plant down in 2000 and instead of moving to Jackson, Miss., or North Carolina I just retired. I could have left Gwinnett County, but I can't leave after living here all of my life.
BB: You were born here?
JP: Yes. I was born in Hutchinson Memorial Hospital in Buford.
BB: Never heard of it, is it still a hospital?
JP: No. It was a daycare, I don't know what it is now. It's right next to the old First Baptist Church.
BB: You go with your middle initial, B. How many Jerry Parks are there in Buford?
JBP: There were four, at one time, Jerry Parks in Buford. I would get their mail. Not a one of them (is related to me). One went to North Gwinnett and I knew him most of my life, but the other two I didn't know.
BB: Other than what you read in their mail.
JBP: I'd get their mail, their phone calls all sorts of things. Even people wanting to buy their trucks.
JBP: I had to put the B in there to keep things straight.
BB: Well, I'll make sure and do the same.
BB: How'd you meet your wife, Judy?
JBP: I lived on Thompson Mill Road and she lived on Bogan Road. I lived beside Whidby's Grocery Store. She came down one day and we made eye contact. Then I went up and asked her for a date. We didn't live but a mile apart so that wasn't very hard. We had our first date in '66. I went in the Air Force and we got married after I got out of the Air Force.
BB: That was right around North Korea.
JBP: I turned 18 in the Air Force and got out for a month and North Korea captured the (USS) Pueblo and they called up the reserves so I had to do two years active duty.
BB: Were you deployed?
JBP: No. I was in the 918th dispensary wing at Dobbins (Air Force Base) and we just did support for the people on flying status. Shots, medical records, keeping them up to date and I worked with the Navy dispensary.
BB: Do you wish you had gone?
JBP: I am glad I didn't have to leave. Back then everybody got a senior trip. If you didn't go to college you had to go to Vietnam or at least in the military.
BB: Retired since 2000, how did you get this job?
JBP: I have worked here two years, this is my second year. Me and my brother-in-law, Ricky, he works here too. We both thought, 'Well, it'd be fun to work over at the ballpark.' So we came over and put in an application and got called and it's been a great experience. I have enjoyed every minute of it.BB: Well you get to hold back all the rabid fans seeking autographs.
JBP: That is right. All of them, I would say 99.9 percent of them are well-behaved people. They are just here to enjoy themselves and get autographs and the kids are great. It makes me happy when I see them happy getting their autographs. It is really a fun job. It's a great job to see people happy getting their autographs.
BB: Were you or are you a big autograph person?
JBP: No, I never have been an autograph person. I have a few in my lifetime, but I never went out seeking them. Some people thoroughly enjoy it.
BB: I see the books some of them have. They are serious.
JBP: They are, they are. If that's what makes them happy I am happy for them.
BB: In your two years what player is the most giving of their time?
JBP: Matt Young, probably, for the two years I've been here. Jaye Chapman is very good. Erik Cordier is good. Several of them. But Matt Young is very nice to the fans and it makes the fans feel good.
BB: That can be a big time commitment when you have a big line of people, especially after a game and they've been at the park for 10, 12 hours.
JBP: I can't even relate. I know it probably gets old at times in their life, but most of them are really nice about it. Cordial. I know sometimes they can't stop, they have activities and things to do in their personal life. But the majority of them stop and make time for the fans and that's nice.
BB: Did your four kids go to Buford?
JBP: They all went to North Gwinnett. We live on Bogan Road and that is in the county so I had to turn into a Bulldog later in life. I enjoyed North Gwinnett. My son played basketball and my oldest daughter played softball. They were slow-pitch then and went to state just about every year in her career playing softball and we really enjoyed following the Bulldogs those three or four years.
BB: Did you play football?
JBP: I tried. I played eighth-grade football for Henry Skipper. But my size sort of kept me playing varsity. But I enjoyed playing for Henry.
BB: Has working here made you more of a baseball fan or do you even get to see a pitch?
JBP: I didn't last year being on the gate for the whole game, but this year I've gotten to be up top until the game is over so I've gotten to watch more games this year. I enjoy watching the players develop and when they go to Atlanta it makes the Atlanta Braves more interesting. You feel like you know them a little bit. Who would have thought when I was growing up we would have had a baseball team in Gwinnett County. We didn't get a McDonald's to close to the 1970s. When (Highway) 20 was built, it was a road with about three bridges in this area you couldn't, two-way traffic couldn't even cross, you had to stop to let them go by. It's hard to imagine.
BB: That must be odd to think back on.
JBP: The Georgia Mall used to be a pasture. And this (stadium) used to be woods. It's amazing. A lot has changed in our area.
BB: Is your wife a baseball fan or is she just glad to have you out of the house?
JBP: I think everybody became a Braves fan in the worst to first year. Everybody still looks to those years and even though we might not be as avid as we were back the, that is what started everybody to being really Braves fans, I think.