When he was in high school, Austin Filiere had two dreams: get accepted into MIT, and make it to the Major Leagues as a professional baseball player. In 2014, Filiere enrolled in MIT as a freshman business major; this year in June, opportunity struck again when he was selected as an eighth round draft pick by the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
Filiere, a right-handed, right-hitting third baseman, is currently playing in the Cubs’ minor league system, working on his game in the hope of joining their major league roster in the next few years. His six-year deal and $144,000 signing bonus have brought him closer than ever to fulfilling his dream of having a full-time playing career, but in the meantime he’s set to achieve his other dream this fall by graduating, ahead of schedule, from the MIT Sloan School of Management with a bachelor’s degree in business analytics.
Here is Austin’s journey.
MY STORY: A LIFELONG LOVE OF BASEBALL
“I’ve been playing baseball for as long as I can remember. I remember being as young as three years old and my parents doing everything with me concerning baseball that I’d asked them for. My dad would go to the park with me tons of times when I simply wanted to go out and pitch, and my mom was the same, doing everything she could to nurture my interest in the sport.
“I would say that my most memorable baseball moment, besides being drafted, was winning the state tournament during my senior year of high school in Arizona. It was an incredible team accomplishment that I’ll never forget.
“When it was time for me to apply to schools and decide where I wanted to spend my college years, MIT was always the top priority. Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey was my second choice and I considered Arizona State, since I’m from there.
NO QUESTION, I WAS GOING TO MIT
“As soon as I was accepted into MIT, I knew that was where I was going. No question about it. There are tons of great schools out there, but I couldn’t turn down an offer from the best school.
“Going into MIT, I chose management science as my major because I love math. Ultimately, I didn’t know whether or not I’d eventually get drafted, so my game plan was to pursue an MLB front office job focused in some sort of analytics if I didn’t get chosen. Soon after I arrived, Sloan introduced business analytics as a major and I made the switch.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at MIT and Sloan tremendously. My favorite business course has been Optimization Methods with Professor Orlin. Together, my friends and I were able to do a project where we used Python code to build a simulation of a Red Sox lineup. Adopting an optimization mindset and seeing how businesses find the most efficient ways to do things made this course one of the most applicable for me.
“I’ve also been fortunate in that my MIT experience has allowed me to continue in my passion for baseball. I’ve played for the school’s baseball team the past three years. Freshman year was a lot of fun, as we were just one win away from the championship and came in second in our region. Really cool. Going forward, the team can definitely get there and it’ll be very exciting to follow them this year, that’s for sure.
“I’ve also played in summer leagues between semesters. This was a risky path to take given that most business school students spend their summers doing internships and building work experience. I’m extremely lucky to have been noticed by a professional sports organization let alone called and drafted.
A PIZZA PARTY CELEBRATION WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
“When I got the call, it was unexpected. It was in June of this year and I was just sort of at home with my mom, hanging around the house and doing chores. For the MLB draft, everyone is eligible and there’s no requirement for players to enter or tell the league they’d like to be considered. There are also 40 total rounds, which means first-round players, the top picks, are usually the only ones sitting with their families and waiting to be contacted like you see in other drafts.
“When the Cubs reached out to me, it was pretty exciting. They let me know they were interested in me for the seventh or eighth round and asked if I would consider joining the organization. Of course I said yes without hesitation. Halfway through the eighth round they called again and said they were choosing me and asked if I’d sign.
“Everyone was pretty fired up. My family and I celebrated, ordered some pizzas, and had friends over to celebrate with us.
THE LONG ROAD AHEAD
“Me being drafted doesn’t mean I’ll play for the Cubs right away. There are tons of levels to reach to get that opportunity. I started off in the rookie league this summer, then, after my third game, I was sent to Oregon to join the Cubs’ short-season team, the Eugene Emeralds. Right now, it’s a lot of training and a lot of games, but I love baseball more than anything so I’m enjoying every second of it. This is what I signed up for.
“It’s a super-long process to weed out the best of the best to get to the majors. Each year, my goal is to move up a level and play for the Cubs some day.
I’VE BEEN VERY FORTUNATE
“This fall, I’ll be a senior at Sloan, but I’ll finish a semester early. Since it’s always been a goal of mine to get drafted, I knew how tough it could be to finish school after the fact. So I juggled extra classes to finish ahead of schedule.
“There isn’t anything I can think of that I would change about my experience as a business school student at Sloan. I was pretty fortunate with everything. Getting the chance to go to the business school of my choice and now play professional baseball are both of my dreams in one.”