According to Mitch Austin, the two major sports in his home country of Australia are cricket and rugby. Yet the May 2021 Newman University graduate from Sydney chose to pursue baseball instead — a sport he started playing at the age of 4.
“Both of my older cousins played baseball, and my uncle was the president of the local club,” Austin said. “I borrowed my cousin’s glove one day and played my first game, and the rest is history.”
Austin set his sights on playing in America and left for college in 2015. He initially attended Highland Community College in Highland, Kansas, before being recruited to Newman in 2017.
Austin was especially drawn to Newman because Tyler Bugner, a former stand-out on the Jets baseball team, had recently been signed by the Colorado Rockies, and Austin’s goal was to become a professional baseball player as well. He also knew that Newman was a respected educational institution and that they had just built the Bishop Gerber Science Center, where he’d be spending a lot of time as a biology major.
“My time at Newman was unreal,” Austin said. “From my growth as a baseball player under the direction of both Coach Ehling and Coach Maus, to being named Homecoming king, graduating with honors with the help of my professors, and forming many friendships on and off the field, they’re all moments I’ll never forget.”
Thrown a curve ball
Upon Austin’s graduation from Newman this past May, his flight home to Sydney was canceled due to the pandemic — an inconvenience that ultimately became a blessing in disguise, as he had the opportunity to play summer ball in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I was hitting just over .400 and playing good baseball and was given the chance to become a professional baseball player,” Austin explained. “I signed an independent contract with the local team in Greensboro, the High Point Bats. It was an awesome time and my first experience with pro ball, and I am very thankful for the opportunity.”
Now Austin will continue his professional baseball career with the Sydney Blue Sox in the Australian Baseball League.
“They have a database of all of the Australians overseas who are playing collegiate baseball and keep record of their stats. Knowing I was graduating this year, they got in touch with me,” Austin said. “I was over the moon when I read the message from them as it was goal of mine to play for the Blue Sox. I had been watching them as my local team since I was little.”
Moving forward, Austin hopes to play baseball at the professional level for as long as he can. No matter where his career — baseball or otherwise — takes him, Austin will be grateful for the people in his life who’ve supported him.
“I have been fortunate enough to always have both love and support from my immediate and extended family,” he said. “Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to get through all the ups and downs that came with college life so far away from home. I also have been extremely lucky to have been hosted by the most amazing families who treated me like one of their own.”
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