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Hitting a curve ball following two years of missionary service came easily to college baseball player Creed Mangrum.
Acing his exams in computer science and biology at the rigorous Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Not quite as simple. "Baseball came back a lot quicker than school did for me," said Creed, laughing.
Still, the junior outfielder said he's enlisted prayer, careful time management and hours and hours of study to make a fairly seamless adjustment back to being a student-athlete following his return last year from the Italy Milan Mission. He's not one to complain. The 22-year-old said he's a blessed young man to be able to pursue a degree at the prestigious university even while playing the sport he's loved since he was a little boy.
Missionary service in southern Europe offers few baseball opportunities. "I didn't pick up a bat in two years." Still, he made an immediate impact for the MIT Engineers during his 2012 sophomore campaign. The Sandy, Utah, native led the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference in hitting and was selected to the 2012 New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association's third team.
Creed finished the season with a .407 batting average, knocked out one home run and led the team in doubles, slugging, triples and on-base percentage. He went hitless in just four games during the 30-game season and committed a single error in the field.
Despite his success on the diamond, Creed's priorities remain in clear focus. No one plays baseball at MIT in hopes of playing professional. The NCAA Division III team is an athletic diversion for some of the nation's brightest students who will pursue careers in engineering, medical research, computer technology and other challenging professions.
After graduation, Creed plans to earn both a medical degree and an MBA. He recently completed a cancer research internship at Rockefeller University. The coaches at MIT recognize the rigors of the school and allow their athletes the time required of them in the classroom and laboratory. "For me, it's just been a great blessing to have baseball as my outlet."
The LDS presence at MIT is growing, he said. Several students have been baptized in recent years.
"The best part of being here is that I can be a missionary every day," he said.
MIT is synonymous for its devotion to scientific research and study. But Creed said his religious beliefs have rarely been challenged or mocked at the school. In fact, many of his fellow students, he added, "are believing people" who practice a variety of faiths.
"It's really been a friendly place for me."
Despite his obligations in the classroom and on the baseball diamond, Creed finds time to serve and fulfill his home teaching duties in the Cambridge 1st University Ward, Cambridge Massachusetts Stake. The ward includes students from several prestigious schools in the Boston area.
Creed recently returned to Milan where he spent a couple of weeks with Church friends and former investigators.