A new challenge awaits Austen Williams, former Bobcat pitcher, as he enters his first season as a professional baseball player after being selected in the 2014 MLB Draft.
Before he received the phone call from a Washington Nationals scout to confirm the team’s selection, Austen learned that his dream had become reality in an unceremonious fashion.
“Nobody called me,” Austen said. “I was just watching the draft tracker, my name pops up, my family freaks out, I freak out and then I get a call five minutes from the area scout, Tyler Wilt.”
Every aspiring professional athlete imagines the day that their hard work pays off and is drafted into their respective sport, and it was the same for Austen.
“It was just shocking,” Austen said. “Not that I got picked, but I always pictured the moment. Them calling me a couple minutes before, getting ready, holding my parents hands and then they call my name and they freak out. But I’m sitting there on my computer, barely paying attention and then I just hear my name. It was just surprising.”
His father, Buddy Williams, said the family had the draft streaming on television and had initially anticipated Austen being taken between fourth or fifth rounds, not the sixth where he eventually was.
“He actually left the room for a little bit,” Buddy said. “The first time we heard it they said, ‘The Nationals select Williams, Austen.’ And we all said ‘Yes!’ We were kind of looking for certain teams that outwardly said they liked him and liked him early so it kind of blindsided us.”
Austen was one of four Bobcats drafted in the 2014 MLB Draft. He says he’s kept up with Tyler Pearson, Taylor Black and Garrett Mattlage.
“We all got sent to spring training, rookie ball, which is pretty much the most brutal thing you can go through in the pros,” Austen said. “It’s about 85 degrees in 100% humidity in Florida.”
It has been rewarding for Austen to realize his hard work paying off. The son of a Texas Tech family, he had a very short of list schools he wished to attend —Texas Tech and Texas State. Texas Tech didn’t pursue Austen, because they felt he didn’t throw hard enough.
“I was really disappointed mainly because my whole family went there and it was kind of all I knew,” Austen said. “There’s no doubt looking back on it now that I’m so much happier and had much more fun at Texas State than I would have in Lubbock.”
Despite being an alumnus of Texas Tech, Buddy did not share his son’s disappointment. He encouraged Austen to choose the school he wanted and not feel the pressure of continuing the family line.
Austen said he wishes the team made it to a regional to have a shot at the College World Series in Omaha, but says he felt he left it all on the table at Texas State.
The thing Austen will miss most about Texas State is the camaraderie he has developed with teammates since high school.
“They’re the best friends I’ve made the past three years,” Austen said. “I’ve played every single of my college career, summer, spring, with (Garrett) Mattlage. I’m going to be seeing him around because he’s going to be playing in the same league as me this year. But it’s people like that, that you’ll never get to play with again.”
A lifelong dream has turned into reality for Austen, despite the unfamiliarity presented with a new competitive environment.
“I’ve spent so much time and sacrificed so many things through college,” Austen said. “I’ve never had a spring break; I spend about a month at home a year, never home for the summer. To be sacrificing all that and for it to finally pay off, especially the way it did, it was just completely worth it and I’m just glad that it worked out for me.”
Buddy is happy Austen’s years of work culminated with a call from the Nationals.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kid,” Buddy said. “He deserved what came to him, because he worked so hard for it. As a parent, it’s just so satisfying.”
Follow Ishmael Johnson on Twitter: @Ish_46