Peter Gammons: Austin Filiere, future third baseman/general manager from MIT

austin-filiere-mit

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the starting place for Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben Bernacke, Christina Romer, Lawrence Summers and founders of more than 25,000 companies.

It has had more than 85 Nobel Laureates, 34 astronauts, 65 Marshall Scholars, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 McArthur Fellows, one Major League Baseball general manager (Farhan Zaidi, Dodgers) and one major league baseball player, Jason Szuminski, who pitched in seven games in 28 days for the 2004 Padres, retired Barry Bonds the one time he faced him, and now works for Spear Street Capital in San Francisco.

And now, MIT has Austin Filiere. He is a junior with a management science/management analytics major, who’s got it figured this way: he’s taken enough extra courses, like the six he’s taking this semester, so that when June comes around and the MLB Draft unfurls (with teams who saw him finish top two in homers and RBIs in the 2016 Cape Cod League, like Nomar Garciaparra years ago, win the league’s Manny Robello 10th player Award, came to see him play against rivals like Babson and realize, long ago, he broke the MIT career home run record) he will get drafted and sign, and he can then go back to MIT. when short season ball ends on Labor Day. He will graduate before Christmas and enter a full-time career in professional baseball player by the first of January, 2018.

Think that out. Then flash back to the first week of August last summer, when some Cotuit Kettleers players were chatting about the summer before a game in Bourne, big-time Div. 1 players from Arizona, Stanford, Wichita State. “You know who makes the loudest sound when he hits the ball?” asked one player. “The kid from MIT” His Cotuit teammates all nodded in agreement.

“Filliere’s definitely going to get drafted,” said one NL scouting official this week. “His power isn’t easy to find. Our area and crosschecking scouts really like him.”

“When his name gets called, the club will say, ‘we draft Austin Filliere, third baseman-general manager from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Hey, as a management analytics major, he took one course last year in which the class ran programs to see what Red Sox lineup would produce the most runs; when you can see the lights of Fenway across the Charles River from MIT, you can do that sort of exercise in courses like The Analytics Edge and Game Theory for Strategic Advantage.

And how it applies to how Austin got into the Cape Cod League out of a Div. III university as a “temp”—a league term for fill-in walk-on who plays at the beginning of the season until the big boys from Arizona, Florida, Vanderbilt, et al arrive, and end up leading the league in homers, RBIs, finish third in slugging, and as everyone at MIT understands, finished third in Runs Created and lead the league in Isolated Power (ISOP).  That, after two years and 80 games at MIT in which he has 26 homers, 34 doubles, 28 stolen bases and a .436/.549/.805 slash line.

Memo to my good friend Brian Kenny: follow this dude. No need to mention that Daniel Bard’s grandfather Fran O’Brien was such a legendary coach at MIT and in The Cape League the MIT field on which Filiere now plays is named for him.

Asked by scouts  what he plans to do with his MIT degree when he graduates, he replied, “hopefully play professional baseball, then stay in the game the rest of my life.” And when he is a general manager, he will no longer need his Captains of Crush grip strength device, although chances are he will still he re-reading his original copy of Ted Williams’ “The Science of Hitting” that he carried around long before he was lugging heavier reading, the books that ran up the board scores and grades that carried him to Cambridge from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, back when his youth coach was Clay Bellinger, his high school teammate was Bellinger’s son Cody,  soon to be the Dodger first baseman.

Last summer, he told me “there probably aren’t many other students at MIT whose father follows you on Twitter.” Father was a Tigers fan. Grandfather an Indians fan. Austin grew up a Diamondbacks fan—with a minor in the Red Sox—and his home bedroom is painted in Diamondbacks purple (and whatever) colors. Some along the Charles River long to invent the next supercomputer, Filiere wanted to emulate Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki and Joey Votto, and breaks down their video to learn from them.

And his Sloan School of Management problem-solving skills steered him to come off a disappointing, self-described “terrible junior year” at Hamilton High School, study video, read Ted, hit in cages and his senior year lead his school to the Arizona Div. I championship, be named the player of the year and a year after that be named the national Div. III Rookie of the Year.

“Look, if you go to MIT you know it’s not going to be easy, so you’re prepared for that reality and the work it takes,” says Filiere. “The same thing applied to playing on the Cape. People would ask me ‘how can someone from MIT play against all those guys from Florida and Vanderbilt and North Carolina and places like that?” I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I was given the opportunity to at least try out and be a temp.”

Filiere was given the opportunity because Harwich Mariners manager Steve Englert is a Northeastern University assistant who knew about Filkiere, and was told by Babson coach Matt Noone “he’s probably the best college position player in New England.” Hey, an early season trial was an opportunity, a greater challenge than the smaller leagues that pursued him.

First game of the season for the Harwich Mariners? First swing? Yard. He knew what he was looking for early in the count. He knew to get a good pitch to hit. “I know that if it’s 88-90 miles an hour, I can try to handle a ball an inch out of the zone, but I can’t if it’s an inch and a half. Of course, when you’re facing the really good pitchers from the big programs, there’s a major learning curve involved.” He learned. He homered in the final game of the playoffs.

When signed players began arriving with Harwich, Englert asked him if he could play the outfield. “I’d have played anywhere to get the opportunity to play and learn,” says Filiere. He has never taken Brian Butterfield-type infield drills. He had limited wood bat experience. He has never worked on long toss drills. He hasn’t done intensive conditioning and weight programs, as the showcase kids do from the time they’re 12 years old.

But Filiere’s performance was far superior to that of potential National League MVP Kris Bryant. His eight homers are eight more than Todd Helton in two summers on The Cape, more than Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell.

There is no fancy indoor facility at MIT for training. Filiere and his friends hit in the cages. Soon they’ll throw in the gym. He may be able to at least talk to conditioning guru Eric Cressey, whose Massachusetts facility is an hour outside of Boston. But while he wants to do everything possible to enhance his draft opportunity, taking six courses at MIT does not leave a lot of extracurricular time for hitting, throwing, explosion and grip strength drills; hence the Captains of Crush grip-strength tool.

But he is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, has bat speed and power and, as one scouting director says, “legitimate power.” That scouting director points out that Arizona third baseman Bobby Dalbec led the Cape in 2015 in homers ISOP and homers per at-bat, struggled mightily last spring in college, was drafted by Boston in the fourth round and tore up the New York-Penn League with a 1.066 OPS and is now a top ten Baseball America prospect.

“Our scouts think Filiere’s power can play,” says one scouting official. And after we learn if it does, Austin Filiere can put Game Theory for Strategic Advantage and The Analytics Edge from MIT and The Sloan School to use in the front office of his choice.

Comments

  1. Peter — Thank you for this article, and for the visibility it gives Austin and the credibility it gives to the MIT baseball program. My son David and Austin were the left side of the MIT infield last year, and I’ve come to know Austin as a modest, well rounded young man who has been a joy to watch play the past two years. (You probably didn’t hear David and me yelling ‘thanks’ to you in Cooperstown in July, not long after you began to write about Austin’s Cape Cod performance.) In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick video I put together from a particularly impressive week Austin had back in April — http://www.vimeo.com/163145873 .

    Larry Heller

  2. GhostOfFenway says:

    I remember hearing about Austin this summer, kid from MIT owning the cape league, so great to know he continued on to finish out the summer strong.

  3. Sam Bernstein says:

    definitely keep an eye on this kids retirement from the playing field, whether it happens after rookie ball or after he puts on a HOF jacket, the sky is the limit for this one.

  4. Bantam Ball says:

    Fantastic article Peter, always got love for D-III ball. Its where the masterminds of the game come from. Look at the front offices around the league, you will see a littering of for D3 (mostly New England) baseball players.

  5. Brian Boyer says:

    Sounds like he takes after his dad! Was always a pleasure to play with you and all of our guys.
    Best of luck to you and Austin in the future!

  6. Ed O'Callaghan says:

    Pete,
    He has a Coach in Steve Englert who is very knowledgeable in all aspects of not only the game but life in general. Coach Englert has the skills to guide and assist Austin in his journey. I watched him this summer on the field taking batting practice with his teammates at 3:30 for a 5:00 game. No joking, halfass fooling around. He was all business. Boy, can he hit the ball hard with purpose and direction. Good luck Austin. Thank Coach Englert.

  7. Binyamin Koretz says:

    You’re certainly right about seeing the lights of Fenway from MIT – that’s one of many great memories from Game 6 of the 1975 World Series for which I had standing room tickets. I got back to my dorm on Memorial Drive about an hour or so after the game — the lights were still on at Fenway and the noise from Kenmore Square was still incredible. And holy cow, I never knew that Fran O’Brien was Daniel Bard’s grandfather! Thanks for the great article. I hope Dombrowski’s people read it and draft this kid!

    • GhostOfFenway says:

      Hear Hear. idk where you would value him in terms of rounds, but I would really love to see him in the organization.

  8. Pete,
    Great story on the kid from MIT.I spent 10 summers coaching on the Cape and never ran into
    A kid like this.Even when I played on Cape72-74 never ever heard of a player even from a div 3
    School.I will follow his path. Real nice story.

    Ace Adams