From the mound to menus, OBU Alumnus, Jinny Parra, ’17, continues to strengthen his faith.
Jinny Parra’s experience on Bison Hill has taken him from fastballs to frittatas, sliders on a three balls-two strikes count to scones, and changeups to croissants.
The native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, came to OBU as a pitcher and has remained on campus as the Chartwell Compass assistant director of dining and catering director.
On a morning earlier this year in the Geiger Center, Parra shuffled from table to table double-checking the Tuscan kale, roasted pepper and goat cheese frittata on one table, the Danish pastry on another and the fruit infused water and orange juice on a third.
Such pre-event moments are to catering what warm-up pitches in the bullpen are to baseball – out of sight of the crowd, but extremely important.
Just a few months earlier in this same banquet space of rooms 219-220, Parra was inducted into the OBU Athletics Hall of Fame. It’s not irony that brought the 34-year-old back to these rooms. Rather it’s an example of how God is working in his life.
As a right-handed pitcher for the Bison in the 2014 to 2017 seasons, Parra established the school record for career wins, 38, and innings pitched, 348.1. He’s second in most games, 66, and most strikeouts, 317. He graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in sports and recreation management and a minor in accounting.
That same commitment shows itself daily in his attention to details in food service with Chartwells higher education dining services.
Tina Lankas, the Chartwells manager for the district, said, “Jinny and I started our professional journey together four years ago. I have been incredibly impressed by the progress he has made honing his skills as catering director for Chartwells. Not bad for starting out as a student dishwasher. Recently, he has been given additional responsibilities overseeing the front of the house in the Café on the Hill. Jinny has used his education and experiences at OBU to be a faithful servant, create memorable experiences, and be a role model for our students and peers.”
A Strengthening of Faith
There are 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound to home plate. Between the pitcher’s release and the catcher’s glove, a baseball can do many things – including gaining velocity. Essentially that’s what happened in Parra’s faith as an OBU student and athlete.
“My relationship with God became better, stronger through the OBU community,” he said. “It made me see things different in life and to appreciate everything more. Part of that was going to chapel on Wednesdays. It was a requirement, but it was much more than that. It inspired my view of God and made me see this is where I was supposed to be.”
In 2016, Parra was the Great American Conference’s Pitcher of the Year and was an All-GAC First Team selection in 2016 and 2017. He also played roles in OBU’s two National Christian College Athletic Association National Championships and was a two-time NCCAA All-America selection.
However, Parra’s takeaway from his time on the field is more about the influence of a person than a title.
“My coach Bobby Cox taught us on the field, but he was also always sharing the Gospel at the meetings, like in the locker room on Thursdays,” he said. “He was teaching us through this, and I use his phrases when I teach baseball. He’s a great example.”
And just as different pitches are crucial in various situations, so are many of the individuals Parra has come to know at OBU.
“Linda Perkins was my first professor at OBU, when I was learning English,” he said. “She really inspired me because she and her family were like a host family. She helped me not just in learning the language, but also American culture.”
Parra arrived in Shawnee in August 2013 and within two months was working with Chartwells Compass.
“I looked for a job because I understood there were circumstances money wise back home with my family,” he said. “I wanted to make sure they were proud of me and knew that I could actually be responsible for my needs.”
One day while working at the Mongolian Grill in the Geiger Center, Troy Jesseph, director of food services, invited Parra into his office.
“I think that was the day he thought about keeping me around because I was so connected and had a great relationship with the students,” Parra said “He gave me the opportunity to take an internship. I am responsible and didn’t want to fail. Troy said to me, ‘You know in baseball, you were the best; try to do the same thing here.’ So, it didn’t matter if I was washing dishes, I’d try to be the best.”
OBU’s First Lady Jill Thomas said it is that quality which makes it so easy to work with Parra during campus events.
“Jinny does such a great job that when he asks me what I want for an event, I say, ‘You decide,’” Thomas said. “That’s how great his catering is; that’s how much I trust his judgment.”
Parra said he has built that self-confidence on a faith-based foundation.
“I Can’t Walk”
Besides the pressure that comes with moving to a new country, and adapting to a new culture, life took a twist that literally stopped Parra in his tracks during his first semester in Shawnee.
Initially, he didn’t notice his ankles were swollen. Then he brushed it off as “a temporary thing.”
“I thought it was going to be gone the same day,” he said.
Three days later he couldn’t walk down the hall. The doctor was puzzled.
“I was really scared,” he said. “I thought God had put me in the right place, but now I was disappointing Him and my family by not accomplishing what I was here for.”
Doctors and coaches gave it a little time, but “I wasn’t making any progress.” He couldn’t even go to class. Parra thought his college baseball dream had ended.
“I had a lot of fear, and I was praying every night,” he said. “Then, one day I got up and just walked normal to another room. I was so happy I cried. I think God wanted me to continue to follow my dreams. That changed my whole life. It built confidence in myself to continue. I have continued and I will continue.”