By: Kimmie Wentworth
You can walk into almost any elementary school, ask kids the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and get at least one response of “I want to be a (whichever sport) player!” Aspiring to be a professional athlete is one of the most common childhood dreams, however, few people are able to see this dream come true. Unlike most, at just 23 years old, Austin Chrismon, former CNU Captain, is living out the life that most kids dream of—he plays professional baseball as his career. Much like most American kids, Austin gained an interest in baseball when he was young. He began playing tee-ball at just 6 years old and has been playing ever since. While growing up, Austin played ball on a variety of travel teams and was a key player on his high school team, Menchville High School, in Newport News, VA. In his sophomore year of high school, Austin began receiving recruitment letters in the mail from an array of universities across the country. He had been noticed not only from pitching for his high school team but also from his travels around the country playing for his showcase travel team. This travel team gave him the upper hand over average high school players because he gained attention all across the nation as opposed to just from local high school games.
After many offers and months of deliberating, Austin decided to commit to East Carolina University to play ball. He played at ECU for two years and then transferred back to his hometown of Newport News to play for CNU after things “weren’t working out” for him at ECU. Things fell into place for him at CNU. Like the opinion of most college athletes, Austin agrees, “being a college athlete was tough.” He explained that, “going to class and stressing over homework on top of three to four hours each day for practice was something I had to learn how to balance.” Luckily, he learned how to balance all of this quickly while at ECU because once he got to CNU he had to add a part-time job on top of everything else. He stated that balancing everything was far from easy and he had to make sacrifices every day and choose what was most important. He didn’t know it at the time, but all of his sacrifices and hard work would be worth it for him in the long run.
During his junior season at CNU, a few professional scouts noticed Austin. He gained the attention of a scout from the Houston Astros. The scout was extremely impressed by Austin’s pitching repertoire and his 92 mph velocity. Austin was given a questionnaire to fill out which acted as an athletic “resume” from the Astros scout after one of his games. After this, it was a waiting game; all Austin could do was hope for the best and continue on with his life.
One hot summer day in June of 2013, Austin got a call that changed his life. He explained, “I was driving down the road on day three of the MLB draft and I got a call from the scout saying that I was going to be the Astros next pick in the 26th round.” All his hard work had finally paid off. “I was in shock that I had gotten the call,” he said “I was so beyond excited. I couldn’t even believe it was real. Everything I had been dreaming of my whole life finally was coming true.” His first professional season was played at the rookie level in the Appalachian League. He was based in Greenville, Tennessee, which he liked because he got to be somewhat close to home so he could still see his family from time to time. After this first season, Austin went on to play ball in the New York-Penn League at the Class A-short level, the Midwest League at the Class A-full level, and the California League at the Class A-advanced level and had successful seasons in each. He said that each year of playing professional ball has such a great experience for him. When asked what the best part of being a professional athlete was he quickly responded that it was the traveling. He stated that he “loved getting to see and visit new cities and meet new people.” However, he also claimed that this was the hardest part of it all. “Being away from my family and friends for up to 6 months at a time can be really hard. I miss a home cooked meal, my friends, my dogs. It can be really tough and a grind.” He went on to explain that “Even though its tough at times, it’s all worth it. I get to travel the country doing what I love! It doesn’t get much better than that.” When asked what the most important part of being an athlete at such an advanced level, Austin said that it was all about staying healthy. He said, “Everything is so competitive. If you are unhealthy or get injured, it sets you back and allows other athletes to jump ahead of you and get that first look before you while you get back to being healthy.” This past year, Austin became a free agent, which meant that any team could negotiate with him to resign him—even teams outside of the MLB. This is how a team in Ottawa, Canada got ahold of him. They offered him a contract to play for them this season, which Austin agreed and committed to.
Even though he plays professional ball, Austin is still as humble as can be. If you didn’t already know, you would never guess that he is a professional athlete by talking to him. He doesn’t consider himself any different from the next guy. Baseball players of all ages admire and look up to him, as he is living proof that dreams of growing up and playing professionally can come true. Austin says that he is “truly lucky and beyond thankful” to continue to do what he loves. After reflecting on life and his professional baseball career Austin simply reiterates, “Hard work really does pay off.”