COVINGTON, Ga. — 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.
That’s why Kauffman took to Twitter last week, pledging his services to Middle Georgia State.
I’m excited to announce that I have committed to Middle Georgia State University to play baseball and pursue my degree. Thank you God, my past and present coaches, my family, and everyone who supported me along the way. All glory to God! Go Knights! 🗡 pic.twitter.com/M8B6hx2xka— Parker Kauffmann (@PKauff16) March 3, 2018
And both Kauffman and his coach at Newton, Andre Byrd, are relieved to have the college recruiting thing in the rearview mirror.
“I’m glad to have this under my belt now,” said Kaufmann, who chose Middle Georgia over offers from Savannah State, Alcorn State, Reinhardt and others. “I had some bigger looks, but playing Division I wasn’t all that. I wanted to go somewhere that fit me academically an athletically. Somewhere that I can compete on the field and get a good education.
Said Byrd: “I’m just glad it’s over. Since Parker came to me as an eighth grader, I told him the way he’s playing, if he keeps working at it, he can be a Division I ball player. I think he is. But I’m proud of him for choosing a school with academics in mind first. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t think he can play at that level.”
Kauffman carries a 4.0 grade point average at The Newton College and Career Academy where he takes “like 10 AP 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 As, but I kind of put it on myself.”
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 admits that Kauffman has done a good job heeding his advice.
“Parker’s meant so much for me and our program baseball wise,” Byrd said. “He’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. I know he’ll do well on the next level.”