TERRE HAUTE —
While his first year of college baseball might not have turn out like he desired at NCAA Division I Holy Cross, former Terre Haute North standout Parker Fulkerson enjoyed the experience.
And he feels he’s a better player for it.
Now a 6-foot, 2-inch sophomore, he’s enjoying his first season at Rose-Hulman. His name’s been penciled in the lineup every game thus far, ensconced in the two-spot in the batting order while playing left field.
How did he come to play at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.?
“Summer before my senior year I went to a prospect camp at Harvard,” Fulkerson recalled. “A lot of D-I guys were there … Harvard, Holy Cross, Brown, other D-III schools too. I really wanted to go to a great academic school as well as play baseball at as high a level as I could. Holy Cross recruited me and I decided to go there.”
As a freshman, he majored in mathematics with a pre-med emphasis. If that wasn’t enough, he was also in Naval ROTC.
“Had a lot on my plate,” Fulkerson smiled.
Baseball? Fulkerson batted just twice, striking out both times. That was his season. While some players might have been upset by a lack of playing time, Fulkerson drew on the positives.
“Being a freshman, a lot of guys were ahead of me,” he acknowledged. “I definitely got a lot better. Probably the most progress I’ve made in a year in my whole life … great coaches there.”
Meanwhile, Rose-Hulman was also on his choice of schools coming out of North.
“I just wasn’t really sold on the whole engineering thing, which is what Rose is basically all about,” he said. “But after a year [at Holy Cross], I knew it was what I wanted to do. [Last year] was really an exploration year for me, but after a year [at Holy Cross], I decided engineering was the way to go for me.”
As for baseball, Fulkerson — a mechanical engineering major — is very pleased with his choice of Rose.
“It’s been a lot of fun for me,” he admitted. “I knew I’d have a great opportunity here. I like the way this team plays, they play hard, blue collar … that’s what I’m about when I play.”
Starting in eight straight games to begin the season, Fulkerson is batting .348 (15-for-43), with a double, five RBIs and three stolen bases, a return to numbers he was accustomed to putting up at North.
“A grinder, just grinding out at bats … not giving them away,” Fulkerson describes himself as a hitter. “Making the pitcher work, not striking out. In that two-spot, you have to move the runner a lot of times. I just try to get the job done for the team.
“I find myself to be more aggressive than a normal two-hitter, not wanting to leave it up to the umpires. I want to hit in one-strike counts and no-strike counts.”
“He’s got a lot of hits, he’ll take his walks, he’ll get hit by a pitch, he can get a bunt down and he makes things happen on the bases,” Rose coach Jeff Jenkins stated. “He has that knack for getting on base and find a way to get it done.”
What he’s not been accustomed to is playing outfield for the Engineers. A shortstop his entire career at North, his first taste of outfield play was being a right fielder for Wayne Newton Post 346, helping them to a state championship.
“He’s a good athlete … done well [in the outfield]; he’s still learning,” Jenkins said. “That will be one of those things all year long. I’m sure he’ll continue to get better.”
“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable than I was at the start,” Fulkerson said. “The biggest change is just reading fly balls. The way you have to throw the ball is a little different too. You have to be a little bit longer, have good backspin on it.”
Fulkerson feels a return to the infield could be in his future.
“I might get back in the infield in my junior and senior year … maybe,” he said. “We have a couple upperclassmen playing on the left side of the infield now. I’d love to get back there when they graduate.”
“It depends,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got a really good senior shortstop right now, that’s probably as good as anybody that’s ever played here at that position. He’s playing in left due to a senior outfielder [Derek Dauenbaugh] who ruptured his Achilles playing intramural basketball.
“[Parker’s] bat needs to be in the lineup … that’s the position that’s open for him right now. We’ve got to get some more outfield candidates in here, or else it’s going to be a position that he’s going to have to get used to. We have a lot more depth in the infield than we do in the outfield right now.”
Fulkerson is definitely pleased with his choice of Rose-Hulman.
“Academically I want to do the best I can while playing baseball as hard as I can every day,” he noted. “I want us to make it to a [Division III] regional … I want to win a regional so we can get to a World Series. Play in those big games, that’s what I like to do.”
With a couple of recent former Rose players playing professionally last year, is baseball a career path?
“It’s tough to say,” Fulkerson stated. “I’m keeping my options open. I want to reach my full potential here as a baseball player and as a student. We’ll see how it goes.”
One thing is certain, Fulkerson enjoys being back in Terre Haute.
“I missed it a little bit when I was in Massachusetts,” he admitted. “The year away was an eye-opener. I like it here, it’s nice to be around friends and family.”