Tyler Austin introduced himself to the Bronx with a bang on Saturday, lacing a home run over the short porch in right in his first major league at-bat. His thrilling welcome to the majors gave fans a glimpse of his potential, and why the Yankees have been so high on the prized prospect for so long. So far his transition to the big leagues has been seamless, but the road for Austin has been a bumpy one, with many hurdles that makes his promotion to the Yankees that much sweeter.
The trials for Austin began as a teenager when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 17, and his promising baseball career was quickly in jeopardy. Surgery was required for the Georgia native, who was suddenly in a battle for something much greater than a professional baseball career. Incredibly, only one week after a successful surgery, Austin was back on the diamond.
Austin went on to be drafted by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB Draft and quickly began to show his worth. In 2012 he was awarded the Yankees Minor League Player of the Year Award after pushing through several different levels in one season. It appeared the Yankees had struck gold.
Unfortunately, Austin hit a wall in 2013 when he suffered an wrist injury that caused him to miss most of the season and began a roller coaster affair for the next two seasons.
A healthy wrist is vital for swinging a bat (just ask Mark Teixeira), and Austin found his road to recovery to be a tough one. His nagging wrist still a factor in 2014, Austin stumbled out of the gate and had difficulty finding his stroke at the plate. He would show flashes of his old self, only to struggle again shortly after. Austin fell from top 100 prospect lists and eventually found himself designated for assignment by the Yankees.
Austin rediscovered his game as his wrist fully healed and he has seemingly carried over his hot hitting in Trenton and Scranton to make an impact in the Bronx. Brian Cashman and the Yankees are likely letting out a deep sigh of relief that Austin was never claimed by another club, given how his 2016 season has gone. He wasn’t even invited to spring training this year, and yet he now finds himself in pinstripes with a major league home run under his belt and an opportunity no one expected to come.
The Yankees practically gave up on Austin after they designated him for assignment, but now he finds himself a part of major league history. His home run on Saturday, followed immediately by Aaron Judge’s own bomb, made the duo the only players to ever hit back to back home runs in their first plate appearances.
It has been a long road for Tyler Austin since his diagnosis as a 17-year-old kid, his rise as a prospect, his subsequent struggles, and a much later renaissance. He has been a major leaguer for all of two days, and yet he’s already made the impact that most players never experience. Now he looks like an interesting part of the team’s future and might even help them compete right now. At first glance, he seems like one of many prospects up to the challenge to provide the youthful spark the Yankees have been needing for so long.