From D-III to D-I, Ben Parker sets his sights on business school and baseball at William & Mary

Transitioning from Division III baseball at Whitman College to Division I at William & Mary, Ben Parker's journey embodies the pursuit of excellence both on and off the field. Despite being under the radar in high school, Parker's remarkable talent flourished at Whitman, where he secured his place as a standout player. Now in his first year of the MBA program at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, Parker's decision underscores William & Mary's academic prestige and athletic achievements.

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 outbreak.

Having graduated from Whitman last spring, and with two seasons of eligibility remaining, Parker chose to leave the Pacific Northwest for William & Mary. 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 CAA opener against Stony Brook at Plumeri, Parker was batting .392 and had 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 said. "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's Reed Stallman have walked twice as often as they've struck out.

Parker has 10 multi-hit games already, including a 3-for-3 day in Wednesday's win at Norfolk State.

"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."

McRae 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. He was 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI against Fordham. At No. 17 Virginia, 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."

So why was Ben Parker so under the radar coming out of high school in Los Altos, Calif.? 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," said 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, which is located in Walla Walla, Wash. 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 Mason's MBA program. "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."

This article was originally published on March 22, 2024 as a TRIBE SCRIBE spotlight entitled: From D-III to D-I, Ben Parker is raking the ball at William & Mary by Dave Johnson on the Tribe Athletics website. The story has been lightly modified by staff to engage the Raymond A. Mason School of Business audience.