Once upon a time, the most American of stories was of the young man who grew up in a small town and made it to the Major Leagues on the strength of his arm or the crack of his bat. And while football may consume most of our passion these days (especially here in the South), there is still something magical about a hometown kid who makes good in the Big Leagues.
Ryan Brooks was able to corral one of Grayson’s most recent hometown heroes, Austin Meadows, for an interview on his journey towards The Show.
Ryan: Austin, thank you for taking the time to interview with Grayson Local. We know that your schedule is extremely busy and that your time is valuable, so again, thank you.
First off, tell us a little about the whirlwind of how your life has changed over the last couple of years, being drafted out of high school, dealing with the media hype/intrusion and knowing that you were a nationally talked about prospect across all of the MLB.
Austin: Well I could not have done it without the support and love of my family, especially my mom and dad. I have been blessed with a wonderful caring family who not only supports me, but pushes me to be the best I can be every day. It is truly an honor to be able to compete with the best talent not only in the country, but in the world.
Ryan: How have you adapted to this lifestyle over the years? Do you feel that it’s changed you, good or bad?
Austin: I feel as if this lifestyle has helped me grow as a young man, on and off the field. From being away from home and family, to facing adversity from the game of baseball.
Ryan: Give us a glimpse into what it’s like being you on a typical day. For example, give us insight to your daily routine, team meetings, workouts, prep time, down time, etc. What do you enjoy the most and enjoy the least?
Austin: Well I go to Spring Training for 5-6 weeks, and that consists of practice for the first couple of weeks, and then we transition to games for the remaining time. During the season, I usually wake up, cook breakfast and relax, then show up to the field around lunch time. I get my early cage routine in, practice with the team on the field which consists of Batting Practice and Team drills. After team practice, relax for an hour or two depending on if we are home or way that night, then play the game which usually starts around 6:30 or 7. Then get a good dinner in me and do it all over the next day! I enjoy spending my time with my teammates and coaches the most. I would have to say my least favorite part about Spring Training is the huge lines we have to wait in to get our food from the cafeteria. Haha
Ryan: Do you have any pre-game rituals/superstitions that you engage in? If so, where did they come from and why?
Austin: Nothing crazy, I have a hitting routine I engage in every single day before our team practice. I’ve always been a big believer in being as consistent as I can when it comes to my routine at the field. Ever since high school I have always believed in hard work and preparation before performing the task at hand. My dad has always taught me this growing up.
Ryan: BaseballReference.com has your career batting average at .312 (across all leagues of play). You’ve stroked 17 home runs, slugged for .460 and have an on base percentage of .380. You’re pretty much a stud. I know a lot of players that would love to have produced such numbers. Based on those numbers and any personal factors that you know, what do you feel like that you need to work on to make it to the starting roster of the Pirates organization that you play for?
Austin: Thanks for the recognition. I feel like and have always felt like I need to work on every aspect of my game no matter what. You can always get better at anything you do, so why not try?
Ryan: For a lot of minor league players having a veteran leader on the team is considered a must have when it comes to developing leadership skills and character. Is there someone that you play with currently that fits this description? If so, can you tell us about him and the bond that you share? How has this help develop you into the person/player that you are today?
Austin: I would say a solid leader, not necessarily a veteran, would be Brett McKinney. He is a pitcher, and we played together this year in Florida and Altoona. I enjoy the way he leads because he truly cares about you as a person and a teammate. If you ask him something regarding your game or whatever, he won’t sugarcoat it, he will just tell you straight up how it is not to embarrass you, but to better you as a player and a person.
Ryan: With the amount of games and countless hours of practice that you invest annually, there have been some important and memorable experiences that you have endured and shared as a team and personally. Please tell us about your most memorable personal achievement as well as your most memorable team achievement.
Austin: Me and my team’s most memorable achievement I’d have to say is, while in Altoona late in the season, coming back and winning the first game of the playoffs against the Bowie Baysox. We were down a ton early on, but our relievers shut their hitters down late in the game. While doing so my teammate Barrett Barnes hit a grandslam late in the game to get us to 2 runs behind. I come up in the last inning and hit a 2 run homerun on a 2-0 count to tie the game, then Jacob Stallings rips one up the middle for a walkoff single to win the game.
Ryan: Now that you’ve made the leap to the MiBL and essentially picked up and moved your life elsewhere, how have you kept up communication at home with friends and loved ones?
Austin: I have been fortunate enough to be all along the East Coast so the travel has been fairly convenient for my family and friends. We stay in touch daily which is nice.
Ryan: How do you involve yourself with your community where you are currently and how do you balance your time both professionally and personally?
Austin: I stay involved in community service not only to give back but to stay involved in the lives of those around me.
When it comes to balancing my time, I like to stay social off the field, to get my mind off of baseball. I once heard this saying, “Don’t let baseball define who you are.” To me, I leave it all out on the field, but when the game is over I wash it off and forget about it, enjoy myself, and come ready to play the next day.
Ryan: What advice do you have for younger kids who aspire to be in your situation one day?
Austin: My advice would be to always work hard at what you do. Compete in everything you do, whether it is playing ping pong against your brother or eating your food faster than him. Work hard in the classroom and always listen to your parents because one day you will be the one taking care of them. Stay hungry!