Parker Tew will graduate this spring from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most respected academic institutions in the world. He will have a degree in computer science and electrical engineering, one of the coveted majors.
He is eager to begin a career that he hopes will make a difference in the world.
But the 2011 East Chapel Hill High graduate would be be willing to put his career on hold for the opportunity to continue taking a round bat and a round ball and hitting it square.
He loves baseball.
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“I would postpone everything to have a chance to play baseball at the next level,” Tew said this week. “I’d just love to have the chance.”
This season he is hitting .422 and is among the national leaders with 24 doubles. He hit .299 as a sophomore and .306 as a junior.
Tew has started 45 consecutive games at shortstop for MIT, helping lead it to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference title the last two years and into the NCAA Division III playoffs. The 25-12 (in regular season) Engineers opened NCAA play on Wednesday in Cape Cod and split their first two games against Salem State. They were scheduled to play Curry College Friday afternoon.
Tew’s chance of playing professional baseball is microchip-sized. He already has lined up a summer internship on Wall Street. The past two summers his internships were in software engineering for a medical firm and with Phillips-Conoco.
Tew almost wishes he had been playing in a summer college league instead.
“I know I made the right decision. There is no question that I made the right decision,” he said. “But it would have been really good to see what would have happened if I had played more baseball.”
Tew grew up going to college baseball games at the University of North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium
“Parker never took a shortcut, not athletically and not academically,” said East Chapel Hill coach Phil Woodell. “Everything he has accomplished, he did by working extremely hard. He loved playing baseball.”
He might have been a four-year starter at East except he developed stress fractures in his back as a freshman. Woodell had him on the junior varsity with plans to pull him up. Parker hit a home run in his first at bat, but missed the rest of the year as he healed.
“I think not playing was tough on him, but he stayed on the team and absorbed everything,” Woodell recalled.
Tew pitched some as a junior at East Chapel Hill, throwing a perfect game although he doesn’t remember who it was against. (It was a five-inning 11-0 win over Durham Hillside.)
“Pitching wasn’t my thing,” he said. “I knew, in theory, what I was supposed to do and I could throw hard, but baseball to me is hitting the ball hard. The perfect game just sort of happened. It was cool.”
A degree of nerdiness
So was his selection of MIT. He never studied with the goal of going to an Ivy League school or another prestigious academic institution. He studied because he was fascinated by what he was discovering.
“I just loved to learn,” he said, “and there were some interesting things to learn.”
But he wanted to play baseball, too, and college baseball coaches were not clamoring for the 5-foot-10, 190-pound shortstop. He had no Division I scholarship offers and began considering NCAA Division III schools.
The MIT baseball coach saw him at a workout and invited him to visit. Tew figured there was no harm in looking around and was surprised by what he found on the Cambridge, Mass., campus.
He later told the East Chapel Hill school newspaper, “At the time I had no interest in MIT and was pretty much set on Emory. However, when I arrived on campus it just seemed right. For the most part not everyone was a human calculator or socially awkward; however, I think everyone had a degree of nerdiness and appreciation for science. I thought I fit in well.”
He laughs about it now. “There is no telling what I said back in high school.”
The other MIT students have been the biggest surprise to Tew. They teach and motivate each other as they work on projects and in discussions. The faculty is tremendous, but campus atmosphere creates academic sharing and fosters a love of learning.
He had never taken a computer programming course and didn’t have any background in computer science, but computers’ ability to help in problem solving appealed to him.
“It is a beautiful thing,” he said. “I love problem solving and the way computers operate fascinates me.”
As much as he loves baseball, it may be second on his list of live goals. At the top is helping people.
“Maybe I can help in a medical field. Maybe efficient energy source that helps pull people out of poverty. I want to make a difference,” he said.
But he wouldn’t mind clinging to his first love a little longer. He gets a lot of pleasure in hitting a baseball hard.