McFarland fulfills promise, earns degree

June 2nd, 2018

PHOENIX -- T.J. McFarland made a promise to his parents back in 2007 when he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians as a 17-year-old high school graduate in the fourth round of the MLB Draft. The promise was that he would someday obtain a college degree, and it came true almost exactly 11 years later as McFarland is set to graduate with the 2018 class of University of Phoenix.
The Arizona Diamondbacks reliever was expecting to participate in a Facebook Live session about his accomplishments prior to the D-backs game against the Miami Marlins on Friday night, but he never expected to be surprised by his parents Tim and Dawn, who had traveled from a Chicago suburb to Phoenix specifically to congratulate their son on his graduation.
"What is this? This is awesome," McFarland said as he saw his parents sneaking up behind him during the Q&A with D-backs' radio host Mike Ferrin. His wife, Jenna, had also surprised him minutes earlier.
Tim watches his son's games religiously and is always at a "maximum level of excitement" whenever he is on the mound.
"Happy graduation, buddy!" said his dad, beaming with pride and a smile from ear to ear.
The left-hander was visibly moved by the visit as they all sat reminiscing in the Chase Field stands.
"Just thank you, thank you so much. I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without your support," McFarland told his family.
His wife recalled early challenges in the process.
"I'm so excited for him," said Jenna. "I think it was always hard, especially in the beginning with all the traveling and everything being new for him. In the beginning, he just wanted to feel like he was in college, and then later on he understood it would be something he needed for his future".
T.J. agreed.
"[Jenna] made me realize that my time in baseball is my priority, but at some point it will end, so why not prepare for the inevitable and get a college degree? Both of my parents have college degrees and were very big on education growing up," said McFarland, who admitted that he needed "a little push" to reach his goal of graduating with a degree in Business Management. "They were really proud I was able to do it."

His father encouraged him to make graduating a priority.
"When he went to the Orioles, he 'big leagued' us for about a year and a half," said Tim. "But I was like, wait a minute, when you have 12-hour bus rides in the Minor Leagues you have time for it. When you went from team to team in Double-A and Triple-A, you had time for it. Now that you are in the big leagues, all of a sudden you don't have time for it? Then Jenny put him over the top."
T.J.'s parents were reluctant to let their son forego attending the University of Missouri.
"But they were all for it after realizing I had a scholarship program through MLB. Towards the end, I actually enjoyed learning about the world of finance," said McFarland, who takes his last official class next week.
His wife never doubted him.
"I always knew he would finish, one way or another," Dawn added.
McFarland becomes the second D-backs player to recently earn his degree from University of Phoenix, joining All-Star , who graduated in 2013.