Blogs > Minor Matters

Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tyler Austin leading the way in Charleston

When the season opened, it was easy to see where the Yankees were going to keep the bulk of their prospect power. Members of the NY-Penn League-champion Staten Island club like Mason Williams, Angelo Gumbs and Dante Bichette, plus RiverDog returnee Gary Sanchez looked set to make this year's version of Charleston one of the must-see clubs in the minors. 

About a month into the season, however, one of the less-heralded players has bashed his to the top of the South Atlantic League leaderboards. 

Tyler Austin, a 13th-round selection in the 2010 draft out of Conyers, Ga., has put together a .358/.384/.877 line with a circuit-best nine longballs through the first 17 games. 

Earlier this week I spoke with Austin about his start, his switch to right field, and a plethora of other topics. Here's what the man with the booming bat had to say.

Q: Pretty easy place to begin. To what do you attribute your hot start?
A: It's just a lot of hard work out there, a little extra work before games, a little bit of extra stuff I'm doing during practice, stuff like that. I'm taking quality BP instead of just going out there and trying to hit home runs in BP. I'm trying to get things done during BP. I'd say that's the biggest success right now that's been contributing to my start.

Q: How did you learn to take that quality BP. For a man with your power, it must be tempting to go out there and put on a show every time. 
A: My hitting coaches I've had over the past two or three years have really, really helped me. They tell me it's not about there and hitting home runs in batting practice. You need to go out there and get something out of it. If you don't, you're not going to get any better. So I'd say that my hitting coaches have helped me out with that a lot.

Q: Have you noticed a change in the way you perform now that you do that?
A: Oh yeah. Definitely. Definitely.

Q: Specifically, when did you feel it started clicking?
A: Last year, when I was in the GCL was about the time I started taking batting practice like that. My hitting coach down there (former Thunder outfielder Edwar Gonzalez) wanted to try something out with me hitting more toward right field a lot more during BP and seeing how that carried over into the game. Ever since then, I've been doing that and it's been working out really well for me.

Q: You've got a 13-game hitting streak going (it snapped the day after I did this interview). Are you doing anything the same before every game?
A: Nah, nah. I'm just going out there and playing the game and having fun.

Q: Now that you're in pro ball, have you been able to study pitchers better before game to know what you're going to face when you get out there?
A: As I've gotten here, there's been a lot of scouting reports on guys and stuff like that, so, yeah, I've definitely been able to study a bit of that and get a little bit better feel for the guys. But it's a matter of seeing him throw it all. I'd say I've definitely been able to pick out the guys and stuff like that before games.

Q: How long does one of those sessions take. For example, if you were looking at tonight's starter, how long would you look at the information available to you?
A: I just look at the charts we have on him. It takes me probably five minutes to look over velocity of fastball, stuff like that, what breaking balls he throws, offspeed, when he likes to throw fastballs. Probably five minutes, that's all that takes.

Q: This is Lexington tonight, so you had a chance to face some of these pitchers last year in Staten Island, when they were with Tri-City. Can you go back to at-bats you had last year and remember what pitch you got from a certain guy?
A: I guess I could do that. I'm probably not going to look at it like that. I'm facing guys that are a little bit better this year, with better stuff. Their velocity's a little bit better, I'd say, but I guess could do that but I'm probably not going to get in too deep into all that stuff.

Q: Since you were drafted, what kind of changes have the Yankees made to your swing or your approach?
A: None, really. They've shortened up my load a little bit. That's about it.

Q: So they must have liked your swing from Day One, then, huh?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: If I remember correctly, you were drafted as a catcher. How much work behind the plate did you do as an amateur?
A: Mostly my junior and senior years of high school.

Q: Did you call your own games?
A: No, sir, I did not.

Q: Even so, can you use what you learned as a catcher while working against hitters and incorporate it into your approach at the plate?
A: No, I wouldn't say so.

Q: Has there been much of a lifestyle adjustment now that you're in pro ball?
A: It's definitely different. Playing every day (at the field) from noon until 10:00, 10:30 every night. It's definitely a grind but I've got to go out there and make sure I'm having fun. If I'm not having fun, then it's going to be a miserable time.

So, for me, it's just making sure I'm having fun. No matter what it is I'm going to enjoy it, because you only live once, so you need to enjoy every moment of what you have.

Q: When you have struggled in the past, is there something you do differently to get yourself out of that funk?
A: No. It's not really anything I do differently. I just go back to my BP and stuff like that to see how I performed during my BP and stuff like that. I'll watch video, too, and hopefully I do something about it the next day.

Q: Last year was pretty special for you, I'd imagine. You got two championship rings (GCL Yankees and Staten Island). Could you have scripted it much better?
A: Yes, sir, I did. I got two rings. No, it doesn't get much better than the season I had last year.

Q: Where do you keep the rings?
A: My mom has them.

Q: What was the injury to your wrist last year? Was it broken?
A: I hurt the other hand. It kept me out for about two weeks, but it was never broken or anything like that.

Q: So, when you're on the shelf, what can you do to keep improving and not fall behind your teammates?
A: I did a little bit. A lot of running, especially running. A took a lot of ground balls because it was my right hand that was hurt, so I just couldn't throw. It's tough, but you've just got to go out there and mentally prepare yourself.

Q: How's the transition to right field going? Did the Yankees tell you why they preferred you in the outfield?
A: I'm not really sure. I really don't know. I guess it's just because I have enough speed to run around with the other guys out there. I'm not really too sure.

Q: Have you taken to it well?
A: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I love it out there. It's a lot of fun. I really enjoy it.

Q: Did you play any outfield in high school?
A: A little bit, but all the way up through travel ball I played center field, so I guess that's why I'm as comfortable as I am now out there.

Q: What's been the hardest part of learning how to play right field?
A: Learning the way the ball comes off the bat with a righty and a lefty up there. Stuff like that's a little bit different, but that's just about it.

Q: On a scale from 1 to 100, how comfortable are you out there right now?
A: I'm about 95 percent comfortable doing that.

Q: What are your goals for this year?
A: I want to hit .400, that's one of them. I want to be an All-Star. I don't want to make any errors, that's for sure.

Q: When you look at your numbers during the season, to which stats do you pay the most attention?
A: My OPS. That and my average.

Q: You're from Conyers, Ga., correct?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: How close is that to Atlanta?
A: 30 minutes.

Q: So you must have been a Braves fan growing up, I'd imagine.
A: No. I was a Yankees fan, believe it or not. Me and my grandmother.

Q: So how did that happen? It must have been rough growing up in Braves country, especially during that time period, as a Yankees fan. 
A: My grandmother was a Yankees fan, and I kind of just bought into it from there. She had me go and watch the games with her all the time, so I'd say it was definitely because of her. 


Anonymous Bernard said...

Great interview, great player. Nice job, Josh!

April 30, 2012 at 10:25 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job on the article.
I would want to know if he sees the outfield as the quickest way to the majors with this organization. I sure do.

May 1, 2012 at 1:21 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this kid, & a Yankee fan to boot. Hope to see him play at the Stadium for many many years to come!

May 1, 2012 at 4:19 AM 

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