April 10, 2012
It's another warm spring night at Plainsman Park. The grass is cut and the infield dirt lays smooth. As the starting lineups are announced and "Play ball!" echoes through the stands, Blake Austin emerges from the Auburn dugout with his catcher's gear in hand.
He trots out to the edge of the circle behind the plate and quickly scribbles something in the dirt just before he puts on his mask and gets down to business.
"But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high." -Psalm 3:3
In a day and age where faith and religion have penetrated the world of sports in almost every aspect imaginable, Blake Austin quietly takes this Bible verse to heart in everything he does, not just in baseball.
The sophomore from Douglasville, Ga., doesn't make a fuss about his faith, but when he takes to the field, Austin offers a reminder, even if only for himself, of where he gets the strength to play the game he loves so much.
"I was kind of shy when I first got here, but then you just have to let everything go and be yourself," Austin said. "It was one of those things where I told my teammates I wanted to get it as a tattoo, and they said I should do something with it, so my idea was to go out and write it in the dirt before the game."
Having attended Landmark Christian School in Peachtree City, Ga., Austin took Bible study classes as part of his curriculum, but said it wasn't until late in high school that he first discovered the verse. He relied on the meaningful words to get him through tough times in his personal life and baseball career.
"It just stuck with me through summer ball and a lot of things where you're by yourself," Austin said. "It kind of applies to baseball because there's a lot of failure in baseball, and it's how you deal with failure, how you come back from all that stuff, so it's a Bible verse to keep me going through life and through baseball."
Austin wanted to keep the passage close to him during career once he arrived on the Plains, but didn't know how that would unfold until he thought of writing it in the dirt. Now that it has become a part of his everyday routine, the catcher believes it allows him to be more successful, having a constant reminder that he is a part of something bigger than himself.
"It calms me down because I know that no matter how bad I play or how good I play, He's always going to be with me no matter what happens," Austin said. "If you fight through it, everything's going to go well. You just have to keep believing."
That attitude he holds now is a small part of what he acquired during his freshman season as a Tiger. Austin saw limited action on the field, but had the opportunity to learn from Tony Caldwell, a talented veteran Auburn player behind the plate.
As a student of the game, Austin took in as much as he could from Caldwell and focused on Caldwell's will to consistently fight to play his best each time he took to the field.
"There are a thousand things that you can take from Tony Caldwell," Austin said. "The way he approached the game, the mental side of it, the physical, the lifting, the throwing and the hard work he put behind it. He kind of went through the stages I went through. He started a little bit and kept battling and kept battling, and that's what I'm going to try to take from it is just to keep grinding.
"When you battle it out, things start going your way and things start falling your way if you play the game right and treat the game the way it's supposed to be treated."
Having already had a successful start to the 2012 season, Austin is looking to do big things for his team the rest of the way through. He finds the key to success in how he mentally approaches the game each day. Austin said he believes he and the team will accomplish a lot if they believe in what they are capable of doing.
"It's just about having confidence," Austin said. "You have to be comfortable with your swing and have confidence up there. That was something I took from Tony Caldwell. He was always confident in his swing, and whether it was going good or going bad, he was always confident and had confidence in himself. Up there, you have to have complete confidence in your abilities, and hopefully if you do that, it goes your way."
by Mae Margaret Davis, Auburn Media Relations
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