RJ Austin: The VandyBoys’ next superstar

A deep dive into RJ Austin and his unique blend of generational talent, relentless work ethic and exceptional character.
RJ Austin looks at an opposing pitcher with base running in the background. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)
RJ Austin looks at an opposing pitcher with base running in the background. (Hustler Multimedia/Vince Lin)
Vince Lin

Everyone probably knows the quote, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” However, have you ever wondered what happens when talent does work hard? Meet RJ Austin.

Chapter I: Childhood

RJ Austin was surrounded by sports from the day he was born. He grew up a massive sports fan and idolized players such as Peyton Manning, Russell Westbrook, Tim Anderson and Ronald Acuña. Additionally, most of Austin’s family members are athletes, including multiple who played professionally. While they were all important to him, his dad, Reggie, will always be his biggest role model.

“My dad raised me, and his background in professional football inspired me to be a professional too. I wanted to be just like him,” Austin said in an interview with The Hustler.

Austin played nearly every sport as a child, but baseball quickly became his favorite. He played on a plethora of club teams until finding his home on the 6-4-3 DP Athletics 15U team. Austin — who was 14 years old at the time — quickly bonded with his new coach, Nelson Pedraza. 

“He [Pedraza] is my favorite coach ever,” Austin said. “He’s always there for me and I’m still connected with him today.”

Austin’s team was the best in Atlanta and featured numerous Division I commits. Austin, who became friends with many teammates, grew especially close with Druw Jones. They developed a friendly rivalry, routinely competing for tournament MVPs as both players captivated scouts across the country. Austin and Jones both committed to Vanderbilt, although Jones went straight to the pros after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.

Chapter II: High School

Austin fondly remembers his high school experience. After spending his freshman year at Grady High School, Austin transferred to Pace Academy, an academically rigorous private school with a solid yet unspectacular baseball program. Following a sophomore season where Austin led the team in every major category, Pace’s coach retired. Austin immediately recommended Pedraza as a potential successor to the school board, who hired him shortly thereafter. The dynamic duo was soon reunited. 

In his senior year, Austin led Pace to its first final four appearance in school history. The extent of his impact is best shown in their 1-0 win against Whitefield Academy and Tennessee commit LHP Brayden May. Austin hit a solo home run, pitched multiple shutout innings, made numerous plays at shortstop and was his team’s verbal leader. 

“He will go through a wall for any coach and is a great leader,” Pedraza said. “He has never pointed fingers at anybody and is beloved by teammates.”

Shortly after his senior season, Austin announced that he was forgoing the draft to attend Vanderbilt. 

“I value my education. After baseball, I want to not be lost,” Austin said. “This is also my only chance to win a national championship, and there’s no better program than [Tim] Corbin’s.” 

Chapter III: Austin on the field

Rather than needing time to adjust to the collegiate level, Austin started every game as a freshman. That’s unheard of in the Tim Corbin era, but Austin is a unicorn. He was a solid contributor all year but broke out in the final series of the year against No. 10 Arkansas. In the first game of the series, Austin went 0-3 and had two errors, his worst game of the season. He credits Davis Diaz for picking him up, and rather than wither in the face of adversity, Austin used the tough game as motivation. He went 3-4 in the next game, which sparked a red-hot end to the season that included SEC tournament MVP honors. That’s an impressive achievement for a freshman, but Austin was unfazed.

“I’m inspired by all the work that the guys on the team put in,” Austin said. “I’m grateful for the award, but I care far more that we won the tournament.”

The sky was the limit for Austin following his incredible freshman year, but he’s somehow blazed through even the most optimistic predictions in his sophomore campaign. Austin has hit in the top-third of the lineup in every game this season and is top two among Commodores in batting average, runs, RBIs, stolen bases, hits and putouts. Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing greatness. However, Austin isn’t satisfied.

“I’m always in my dog mentality. No matter the score or what my stats are, I just want to dominate and win,” Austin said.

Head coach Tim Corbin echoes this message.

“It’s so hard to find a kid like RJ,” Corbin said. “His sole mission is to beat the opponent and he’s so consistent.”

Chapter IV: Austin off the field

Highly successful athletes often succumb to their egos off the field, but once again, Austin is unique. He is always rocking his trademark smile and Pedraza emphasizes how friendly and professional Austin is. He’s also incredibly humble.

“I’m a guy that tries to make your day. You don’t get too much time away from the game, so you have to always enjoy the moment with friends and family,” Austin said.

This empathy is fully on display. In high school, Austin hosted numerous baseball camps for underprivileged children, while at Vanderbilt, he regularly volunteers at the Special Olympics of Tennessee. When he’s with friends and family, Austin loves traveling, trying new restaurants and playing video games, where he wants to become a twitch streamer for all sports games. He also takes the definition of “role model” to the next level, as Austin is a model for Coach.

“My advisor told me about the opportunity so I figured I would try it [modeling],” Austin said. “It’s really fun and helps me be visible to the community.”

Commodore nation, for the next year and a half, I invite you all to sit back and enjoy the Austin show.

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About the Contributors
Adam Burns
Adam Burns, Staff Writer
Adam Burns (‘27) is from Scottsdale, Ariz., and studies human and organizational development, business and data science in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing sports, spending time outdoors or exploring new places. He is also an extremely passionate Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Diamondbacks fan. You can reach him at [email protected].
Vince Lin
Vince Lin, Deputy Videography Editor
Vince Lin (‘27) is from Zanesville, Ohio, and is majoring in computer science. Vince also serves as a graphics and photography staffer. Outside of school, you can find him at the gym, rowing, lifting weights, playing games with friends or sleeping. You can reach him at [email protected].
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