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Parker Kauffman signs to Middle Georgia, looking to be a leader early
Pictured in the back are Newton athletic director Vince Byams and head coach Andre Byrd. Pictured with Kauffman, from left, is Nia Santoyo (girlfriend), John Kauffman (father) and Deede Kauffman (mother). - photo by Manny Fils

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton’s Parker Kauffman will be heading to the next level to play baseball after signing his letter of intent with Middle Georgia State on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite being one of the youngest players on the Knights’ team, Kauffman plans on being in the middle of the competition for the starting catcher position.

“It won’t be nothing new,” he said. “I’ll be the youngest once again, so I’ll be ready for it. I’ll be at 18 the start of next season playing with 22-year-olds. It’s nothing new. I grew up the youngest one on basically every team I’ve played on.”

That doesn’t mean Kauffman will go in cocky. The soon-to-be Newton grad said he’s looking forward to learning from those who’ve been there and done that.

“I’m going to lean on the guys ahead of me and hopefully they’ll be open to mentoring me,” he said. “Also at the same time, we’ll be friends, we’ll be teammates, but there’s going to be three or four other guys at my position, so I’ll be fighting for a spot.”

Kauffman was solid behind the plate and in the batter’s box for the Rams hitting .271 with a .382 on-base percentage for his senior year. He had 14 RBIs and two doubles —  both against Alcovy — for the season.

Kauffman has been a mainstay for the Rams over the past five years, first playing on the junior varsity team as an eighth grader. From the time he stepped on the field head coach Andre Byrd knew he had a special player on his hands.

“He was light years above the eighth-grade class that he came in with,” said Byrd. “He was able to hit varsity pitching right away. That’s when I knew he would be pretty good. A lot of times when the guys come in they’re athletic and can’t play the game. He knew how to play and he knew the game. He was well coached before coming to the varsity.”

Aside from being a special player on the field, Byrd also knew he had a special player off the field. Kauffman, who has a 4.0 GPA, was a player Byrd never had to worry about.

“Being a coach, a lot of the times you have to worry about what the kids are doing on the field as well as off the field,” Byrd said. “Sometimes, more times, it’s off the field rather than on the field. But Parker was never one I had to worry about.”

Kauffman had several other offers including Savannah State, Reinhardt and Alcorn State. But Middle Georgia got the nod over the rest of them because he wanted to go to a school not only for baseball but for the institution’s quality of academic instruction. Parker  plans to major in business.

The other thing that set Middle Georgia apart was head coach Paul Knight and assistant coach Paul Sorrow. 

While Kauffman provided a lot for the Newton baseball program, the Newton baseball program also meant and taught him a lot as well.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and a lot of downs over the last four years. What the last four years have taught me is that you have to overcome adversity,” Kauffman said. “You have to play with the cards you’re dealt and lead the team. Even if you aren’t performing on the field, you have to lead in the classroom; you have to lead in society.”