Senior leads the Thunder with a .378 batting average and has a baseball scholarship to play at Florida
While hitting excessively in the batting cage before the season, Austin Brinling began to develop a callus on the palm of his right hand.
“It was all black,” the Out-of-Door Academy senior outfielder said. “I had a bunch of black dots.”
So when the hand began to hurt, Brinling alerted his parents.
“They freaked out and took me to a dermatologist,” he said.
That caused the same reaction.
“The dermatologist freaked out,” Brinling said.
The next thing he knew there were six stitches in the palm of his hand and he was sidelined from baseball for about a week.
Being away from the game hurt Brinling more than his sore hand.
“Austin is a very hard worker,” Thunder coach Tim Orlosky said. “Him not being where he wants to be pushes him hard everywhere. If he’s not hitting well, he’s constantly in the cage.
“You would think as soon as he starts getting going and has momentum, he’d stop hitting off the tee or stop taking live swings. He doesn’t. He’ll continue to hit. He’s a worker. He knows he needs to do that to be successful.”
When Brinling returned for the start of the season, hitting did not come easy.
“I could definitely feel it,” he said. “Once I told myself it was going to be like this for a little bit and I just had to stay simple.”
Brinling could swing the bat, but he could not finish his swing. Using a bat with a thick knob, when he completed the swing it would rub up against his palm.
“That’s when I had the problems,” Brinling said.
Gradually, though, he found his groove.
“It scared me a little bit,” Brinling said. “I knew I was capable of coming back and being strong.”
For the 10-2 Thunder this season, Brinling has a .378 batting average with three doubles and two runs batted in. The left-handed hitter has scored 11 runs and has stolen five bases in six attempts out of the leadoff spot.
“He’s always the dirtiest guy,” Orlosky said. “That’s just the way he is. He’s always looking to take the extra bag. He’s looking to exploit your weaknesses. He’s a gamer. You’ve gotta love him. You’ve gotta love watching him play. He’s a special player.”
Seeing his future brighter on a baseball diamond rather than a football field, Brinling stepped away from the gridiron where he was a wide receiver/cornerback and put all his effort into playing baseball.
“Speed, explosive play,” said Brinling on what he brings to the diamond. “I feel like I’m always a threat when it comes to on the field, being able to catch fly balls and throwing people out. Defense is definitely my strong suit and at bat.”
With speed and a plus arm, he spent more time in the weight room to generate more power and elevation in his swing.
“I’m starting to be able to do that this year,” he said.
He will attend the University of Florida on a baseball scholarship in the fall but does not know what he wants to study yet, although he is leaning toward a certain field.
“I always wanted to be a marine biologist,” he said. “I know it’s hard, but if I work at it, I think I can do it.”
Brinling is handy with reptiles and amphibians around the field, too. He recently removed a snake from the Thunder batting cage.
“I’m able to go in and catch anything,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t poisonous. I wouldn’t pick up a poisonous snake.”
Before Tuesday’s game in the semifinal round of the Taylor Emmons Memorial Baseball Classic, a teammate asked him to help remove a couple of frogs who took up residence in the helmet of an ODA coach.
“I catch frogs,” he said. “But I just thought you should leave it be.”
Besides, Brinling was hitting in the cage at the time.
“He’s a reps guy. He’ll constantly swing,” Orlosky said. “He’ll put in the work if you let him. There’s no doubt about it. He’s going to give you everything he’s going. That’s pretty evident when you watch him play.”
Source: Herald Tribune