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Kauffman’s pledge to Middle Georgia is an ‘academic’ one

Parker Kauffman had the Division I baseball offers. He had plenty of other schools from various levels expressing interest in his prowess behind the plate as a catcher. 

Ultimately, the Newton High senior said, “nah,” to the Division I baseball dream that so many of his peers chase, and made his choice to continue his athletic career an academic decision. 

Kauffman committed to Middle Georgia State during the first week of March because of what he felt the school could give him academically. And it’s a decision Andre Byrd, his high school coach, wishes more kids would make. 

“Here’s the thing,” Byrd said. “This is a very rare thing nowadays. The way things are now, everybody’s thinking the next level. And when they say that, they’re thinking pros. But Parker’s looking first at the fact that he’ll be receiving a free education.” 

“I had some bigger looks,” Kauffman said, “but playing Division I wasn’t all that. I wanted to go somewhere that fit me academically and athletically. Somewhere that I can compete on the field and get a good education.”

Kauffman carries a 4.0 GPA at the Newton College and Career Academy where he takes “like 10 Advanced Placement classes.”  He says the academic first mindset was instilled in him by his parents and grandparents in particular. 

“Everyone in my family has a doctorate in education,” Kauffman said. “Aunts, uncles, grandparents on both sides. So they don’t pressure me to get all A’s, but I kind of put it on myself.” Byrd says Kauffman’s academic prowess rubs off on his team. 

“He’s one of those guys that I call a GPA booster,” Byrd said. “He sets an example for other players on our team by showing that, although he loves the game of baseball, he values his academics more. That’s major.” 

Kauffman said he wants to major in business and sports marketing to prepare himself for a career as a sports agent, a coach or even a journalist. Anything to stay around the sport.” 

“I want to take my playing career as far as it will go,” he said. “But I know that it’ll be over one day, and I want to make it so I can continue to stay around the game. I just love baseball. I love the game and want to stay around it as long as I possibly can.” 

Kauffman has been a versatile player for the Rams during his four seasons, bolstering their lineup at the plate as a solid hitter, behind the plate as a catcher, or even on the mound as a pitcher. So far this season, he’s batting .273 with an on-base percentage of .484, He’s also registered five RBIs through 10 games. 

He’ll likely see the most time as a catcher in college, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to win himself a spot on Middle Georgia’s pitching staff. 

“The coaches said they’ll give me as many opportunities as I earn to get on the mound,” he said. “I love pitching because I love being in control of the game and putting my team on my back.”

Kauffman heaps praises on Byrd who, he says took a chance on him as a young starter. 

“I’ve started every game since freshman year,” he said. “And coach Byrd didn’t just give that to me. He told me, ‘You’ve gotta prove yourself to be even better than what I see you can be.’ So he poured all his eggs in my basket from the beginning and told me to keep a chip on my shoulder to prove to everyone that I can play.” 

And Byrd calls Kauffman A throwback. 

“Back in my day, guys playing in high school didn’t always automatically look at this next level as going pro or making a lot of money,” Byrd said. “We were like, ‘Forget the pros right now. Let’s go to school for free. Let’s get that free education.’ I wish every other sport would go back to that mindset. I hope people see the decision Parker made and it kind of becomes an example. He had some of everyone knocking on his door. But Parker wasn’t worried about the name or Division I. He took what best suited him.”

Byrd also says that Kauffman’s decision isn’t an admission that he isn’t good enough to play at the highest level. On the contrary, it shows his confidence that he can make it no matter where he goes. 

“The thing about it is if you’re good enough, the pros will find you,” Byrd said. “And if you’re not good enough, it doesn’t matter where you go. “Parker’s an awesome catcher. Middle Georgia knew that as well, which is why they gave him some money to go play baseball for them. It’s just exciting to see. He’s guaranteeing that Navient and Sallie Mae won’t be calling him 10 years from now. I know he’ll do well on the next level.”