WILMINGTON, Ohio – The ongoing global pandemic that is COVID-19 (coronavirus) has greatly impacted the landscape of athletics at all levels, mostly in a negative way. But for one former Wilmington College baseball player, the pandemic has provided him a unique opportunity to live out a childhood dream.
Despite the shortened Major League Baseball (MLB) season and the cancelation of minor league baseball, COVID-19 gave Austin Newman (class of 2012) an opportunity to play professional baseball.
The Lexington Legends, a Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, and the Florence Y'alls of the Frontier League formed a seven-week venture called "The Battle of the Bourbon Trail". Both cities formed two teams that began competition on July 31. They've competed in front of fans every Wednesday and Sunday.
Tryouts were open to everyone, and Newman was one who showed up in Lexington in late July to tryout. The Lexington Legends liked Newman enough to sign him.
"I always knew I had the ability to play at the pro level, but never was given a shot," Newman said. "My dad talked me into it, and I ended up making it. It was a dream come true to start the first game at Florence and my entire family showed up and friends. I got a nice hit my last at bat in the game, and it was one of the best moments I've ever shared with my family, especially my dad who always pushed me to be better."
Currently, Newman carries a .307 batting average and has drawn nine walks. He's played at both second and third base, but may be losing to time at third base.
"Brandon Phillips [formerly an infielder with the Cincinnati Reds] just signed with our team, so it looks like I'm really going to have to work hard to play third," Newman chuckled.
|Newman with the Lexington Legends|
Newman was a four-year member of the Wilmington baseball team and an education major. His senior season, Newman hit a .331 clip with 16 doubles and two home runs. He also drove in 14 runs and stole eight bases.
Alongside his baseball career, Newman is a teacher at Indian Hill High School teaching health and physical education.