By Sue Moore
“Working for the Seattle Mariners will be everything I’ve ever wanted to do, all in one package,” said Patrick (P.J.) Callahan, Vicksburg High School valedictorian in 2015. He is a new mechanical engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was a star pitcher for the Bulldogs and at MIT for the Engineers.
And he has his first real job as Project Coordinator in Sustainability with the Mariners baseball team. “This combines everything I’ve ever been interested in,” Callahan said. “I’ve wanted to make some kind of impact, make a difference in the world and be happy doing it.” His small-town roots are where it began, he said.
While at MIT, Callahan majored in mechanical engineering so he could pick what he liked by minoring in energy studies and economics. Now he gets to work helping people understand about climate change. He will be taking on waste and energy management at the T-Mobile ball park on any given day. Management has created the role for him even though it was further ahead than most big-league teams in recycling trash. The organization has a compost facility south of Seattle and hand-sorts most of the waste stream that goes to this operation for recycling. Callahan did a 3 ½-week internship in January. The organization liked his ideas on how to take the information it has and move the effort forward to educate and calculate the carbon footprint of its recycling program. He begins the job on July 15 and reports to the vice president of operations.
Although Callahan won’t be pitching batting practice for the Mariners, he just finished his baseball career by throwing two successive winning games for MIT in its league tournament to beat Babson College and qualify for the team’s entry into the NCAA playoffs. Callahan is a lefty but hits and writes as a right-hander. His dad, Tim, taught him this way as he opined that it would have more opportunities as his son grew older.
At MIT, “P.J. was basically our hero, throwing two complete games to lead us to the NEWMAC championship. Never seen anyone do something like that on a baseball team I’ve covered in 20 years in athletic communications,” said Ken Johnson, director of promotions and marketing.
“I’ve had a baseball in my hand since I was born,” P.J. said. “I would hit the ball off a tee in our backyard, just going back and forth all day long. Nobody ever forced me. I just did it because I loved playing baseball. My dad was a good athlete in his heyday, playing for Dearborn Divine Child. He and my mom, Audrie, headed off to Alaska before I was born with my three siblings who now live in and around Vicksburg. We returned to Michigan because dad got a job teaching government at Vicksburg High School and my mom went to KVCC to become a nurse.”
“P.J. is the most disciplined kid I know,” said Tim. “Ever since he was little, if he said he would do something he would stick with it. He used to study physics on our 20-minute car ride into school each day. There is not a lot of science interest in the family but he was inspired and pushed himself all the time.”
P.J. applied in middle school to the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC) but got cold feet when he was accepted. “My parents asked me to try it for one year but I was scared and didn’t love it. Just get through it, they told me. So, I went a second year and it was a little better. Then in my junior year, my physics teacher, Michael Sinclair, was demanding and tough, which was just what I needed. Being both a geek and a jock meant no social life and that was even harder as I loved the lunch room chat with my friends. I had played baseball with them for eight straight years,” P.J. recalled.
“When it was time to look at colleges, I still wanted to play baseball. Case Western was my choice and then MIT’s coach came calling. I was put on the deferred admissions list which was disheartening as we hadn’t visited the campus. Then when I was accepted, we took a 14-hour drive to Boston and spent one day there. I can’t say that I was in love with the place so it took me a few more weeks to decide to attend. I have no regrets now but those first few months were a challenge to make adjustments to the city and the school. It was a cultural shock and four straight years of stress. I learned it’s OK to get a B and not be perfect every single time,” he said.
Callahan helped his team win its league championship in 2019 with a starting pitching record of 6-2. He throws a 4 seam, 85-mph fastball and has a good curve ball and slider to go with it. He learned to throw a change-up his senior year. He credits his teammates with having a lot of talent and great work ethic. And it helps that they are really smart, he said.