Stepping up to bat in missionary work
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A call to serve in the Italy Milan Mission was a mere formality for Massachusetts Institute of Technology baseball star Creed Mangrum. His missionary zeal has been evident throughout the school year in Cambridge, according to Bishop Patrick O' Loughlin of the Cambridge University Ward (Student Single), Cambridge Massachusetts Stake.
The most impressive example of that zeal came during a team meeting of the MIT Engineers baseball team following their final game of the season.
Creed e-mailed his teammates the Saturday prior to the Monday finale and asked if he could have some time to speak in a postgame meeting.
"I love my team. I love every guy on the team," Creed said during a Church News telephone interview. "They're genuinely interested in who I am. We made close friendships."
Throughout the season, Creed said, his teammates respected his faith and asked him questions about the Church.
"They thought it was cool I was going on a mission," he said, having received his call as the baseball season was winding up.
So the players were happy to give him time to speak after closing the season with a 5-4 victory over Fitchburg State. He explained to them what he will be doing in Italy for the next two years, talking about the schedule he will follow and mission rules. He gave each player a copy of the Book of Mormon and a pass-along card.
"I wouldn't want to leave without giving them a Book of Mormon," he said.
The players' positive association with one another helped the team to a 25-14 record, MIT's most wins ever in baseball. The Engineers reached the championship game of the NCAA Division III New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference tournament before falling to Babson College, 6-3.
Creed was 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA as a pitcher for MIT, but made his biggest contribution at the plate, where he hit .393, ready to take the field in the infield or outfield.
Just a freshman at MIT, Creed said, "It's hard to leave, and I wouldn't be going if I didn't believe with all my heart it's the thing to do." He commented, "I've always wanted to go on a mission. It's something I always assumed I would do. And since I got my call, I've even had more of a desire to go and share the gospel."
An academic and athletic standout at Brighton High School in Sandy, Utah, Creed said he never even thought about attending MIT until baseball coach Andy Barlow contacted him. Though MIT doesn't offer sports scholarships, the coach's support for players he wants is important in the extremely competitive application process.
School is challenging at MIT, Creed acknowledged. He said he heard that no matter how gifted or talented a student is, there is another student who is more gifted or talented. He found that to be true. But he was impressed with his fellow students. He said he was often "clueless" about a homework assignment, but just walking down the dorm hallway he would always find someone who would offer to help him. In the demanding environment, he said, competition isn't student vs. student, but rather students vs. MIT.
Along with his academic courses, Creed took three institute classes during the school year, two in the evening at the Cambridge institute that caters to students from several schools, and one at MIT.
"I've grown more here intellectually and spiritually than ever before in my life," he said. "I feel like MIT is where I'm supposed to be."
Bishop Clint Cannon of the Willow Creek 4th Ward, Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake, Creed's home ward, said the young man fit in well with a priests quorum of "great guys and a good group of peers."
"At MIT, Creed had a chance to blossom even further," the bishop said. He described the athlete as "one willing to take on a challenge" and who is "not arrogant." He added, "Creed has always had good direction with a focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The son of Dennis and Elizabeth Mangrum, Creed is a four-year seminary graduate. He will enter the Missionary Training Center toward the end of June.
It has crossed his mind, "What if I get back from my mission and can't remember how to play baseball?" Though that's not likely, he'll have the support of his father, a high-school pitching coach, and brother Micah, a former professional baseball pitcher, to help him sharpen up again.
Creed said that when he returns to school, he may focus his studies at MIT on pre-med and music. He plays the piano and guitar.