TRENTON – Tyler Austin has spent parts of the previous five seasons with the Thunder in his quest to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a major league baseball player. ARM & HAMMER Park served as the home for some of his brightest moments as well as days of anguish and struggle. The Yankees outfielder/first baseman has played 261 career games for Trenton and has slashed .265/.345/.402 with 21 homers and 125 RBI.
After overcoming a laundry list of roadblocks, Austin finally reached the pinnacle on August 13 last season when he suited up in pinstripes in the Bronx. Austin will return to his old stomping grounds in Trenton on Saturday to begin his official MLB rehabilitation assignment as he works his way back from a broken foot that has kept him out of action since February 17 after fouling a ball off of his left foot during batting practice in spring training.
“Getting at-bats, I think that is the big thing,” said Austin. “The main focus is just getting at-bats.”
Austin is slated to bat clean-up for Trenton vs. Portland on Saturday while serving as the team’s DH.
Though the plan moving forward will be largely based on how he feels following each game, Austin believes that he will see action in the field beginning on Sunday.
The 25-year old Austin first suited up for the Thunder as a 20-year old in the final days of the 2012 campaign; the same season that he was named the Kevin Lawn Award winner as the Yankees best minor league player.
Once dubbed a “mega-prospect” by General Manager Brian Cashman, Austin hit .304 in the 2013 postseason and propelled the Thunder to an Eastern League Championship. He is remembered for famously calling out Mets prospect now ace Noah Syndergaard in the opening game of the EL semifinals and backed it up with a trio of RBIs in the contest.
From that point forward, much of Austin’s time in Trenton was spent battling nagging injuries, most notably, a wrist injury that has cost him hundreds of at-bats and days on the disabled list. As he tried to battle through the injury, the numbers became pedestrian and his stock on prospect rankings began to plummet. His career appeared to have hit rock-bottom when the organization opted to designate Austin for assignment on September 1 in 2015.
With a renewed lease on his career, Austin returned to Trenton to begin the 2016 campaign and found himself in Triple-A just 50 games into the year. He hit a robust .323 for the RailRiders and finally earned the eagerly anticipated call-up to the big leagues last summer.
“I have had my fair share of struggles here,” admitted Austin. “It is always good to come back here on this side of it and I’m excited to get back out there tonight.”