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Business & Baseball: Whitman Alum Pursues MBA at William & Mary and Big Wins on the Field

Going from DIII to DI: Ben Parker ’23 continues building his baseball legacy in graduate school

By Dave Johnson, W&M Athletics, Republished With Permission

Ben Parker at bat on a baseball field.

Looking through the Whitman College baseball record book, you get a quick sense of the legacy Ben Parker left behind. Among the program’s all-time leaders, he is No. 1 in batting average (.376), slugging percentage (.662), on-base percentage (.475), runs scored (127), home runs (28) and RBI (111).

All this despite a 12-game freshman season, which coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Having graduated from Whitman last spring, and with two seasons of eligibility remaining, Parker chose to leave the Pacific Northwest for William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. And Division III baseball for D-I.

“I wanted to see how good I could get,” Parker said, “and how far I could take it.”

He's already taken it pretty far.

Heading into the March 22 opening game of the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) against Stony Brook at Plumeri, Parker was batting .392 and has reached base in all 21 of the Tribe’s games. Among conference statistical leaders, he’s in the top five in home runs (seven), runs (35), RBI (24), walks (23), on-base percentage (.547) and slugging percentage (.785).

From Feb. 25 through March 16, Parker put together a 13-game hitting streak in which he went 23-for-50 (.460) with four home runs and 18 RBI. Of his 31 hits this season, 15 have gone for extra bases.

“He's a big, strong young man who has a ton of college at bats,” Tribe coach Mike McRae says. “That’s a tremendous asset to anybody.

“The power numbers and the lack of strikeouts is a pretty good correlation for us. When you put all those factors together, I think we’re actually seeing him get better.”

In fact, Parker has struck out only 11 times in 106 plate appearances—once every 9.6 trips. Among CAA players with at least 25 trips to the plate, only he and Campbell University’s Reed Stallman have walked twice as often as they’ve struck out.

Photo by Jim Agnew

Photo by Jim Agnew

Making Adjustments

“The biggest adjustment to D-I was getting used to the velocity,” Parker said. “In D-III, the average series starter was throwing 84 (miles per hour) to probably 88 and topping at maybe 90. Now, it's consistently higher 80s and lower 90s.

“Once I got used to the timing on everything being a little harder, it’s been refining my swing decisions in the box. Because breaking balls now are just as hard as fastballs were last year.”

Mike McRae, Head Baseball Coach, and his staff prepared Parker for that.

“We probably threw him more breaking balls and off-speed pitches in the preseason than he's ever seen in his life,” McRae said. “We kept telling him, this is what you’re going to get. That’s why I think he's turned the corner and getting better.”

Six games into the season, Parker was off to a 3-for-23 (.217) start. He struck out five times, three of them looking.

Then he caught fire. Parker’s 13-game hitting streak included eight multiple-hit days. He went 2-for-5 with a grand slam against Boston College on March 2. He was 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI against Fordham, March 8 and 10. At No. 17 Virginia on March 12, he homered over the right field fence and into the home bullpen.

Parker had 13 home runs in his first two full seasons at Whitman. He hit 15 last year and is on pace to pass that this spring.

“I’ve always been a good, natural hitter,” said Parker, a center fielder who bats second in the lineup. “I see the ball well and I'm a strong kid, so I can hit it hard.

"It’s always been how I play. I’ve always been able to put the ball in the gap, and in college, I've developed more strength. I've always been a tougher out.”

Late Bloomer Is Blossoming

So why was Ben Parker so under the radar coming out of high school in Los Altos, California? Maybe because he was a late bloomer physically and never entertained the notion of playing college baseball until his junior year.

“I was all right, pretty good for high school,” says Parker, whose younger brother, Aaron, is the starting catcher at UC Santa Barbara. “I didn’t stand out that much at showcases.”

He certainly stood out at Whitman. After graduating last spring with a degree in Economics, and with two seasons of eligibility remaining, he entered the transfer portal.

His preferred destination: somewhere that offered a renowned business school and Division I baseball program.

William & Mary was one of the first to reach out, and Parker developed a good rapport with Tribe assistant coach Paul Panik. So off he went, 2,800 miles and three time zones across the country.

“I was talking to a few other schools on the West Coast,” said Parker, in his first of two years in the MBA program at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. “I came on my visit in April last year and loved it.

“I was offered and pretty much committed right away. It was definitely the best academic program I could get into and it seemed like a good situation to step into with the baseball team.”

A good situation that’s getting better with each game.

*This story was originallly published on the William & Mary Athletics website. Republished here with permission.

Published on Apr 4, 2024
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