Players Alliance backs Vandy commit's clinic

November 24th, 2021

RJ Austin has been a standout player throughout his high school career, but the 17-year-old stood out this week for a different reason.

Austin held his second annual baseball clinic on Wednesday, hosting more than 40 children between the ages of 7-13 in Lithia Springs, Ga., to teach hitting, fielding and baserunning fundamentals to the next generation of players.

Having been invited to participate in MLB’s Baseball Breakthrough Series and Elite Development Invitational, as well as BaseballGenerations -- an organization co-founded by Mets outfielder Dominic Smith -- Austin decided to do his part to pass the baton, holding his own camp for children on Wednesday.

Photo: RJ Austin

“There are a lot of camps for young kids and minority baseball prospects; those inspired me to use my talent to help other people, like people helped me when I was younger,” said Austin, who is committed to play at Vanderbilt University. “I tried it the first time and it was really fun, so I’m going to make it an ongoing thing and do it every year.”

Termarr Johnson, a good friend of Austin’s who might very well top MLB Pipeline’s 2022 Draft prospect rankings, was also on hand to help teach the kids.

CC Sabathia, whose son, Carsten, has played in several events with Austin, learned about the teenager’s clinic and immediately brought The Players Alliance on board to lend its support.

Sabathia has held numerous clinics through the years for kids in the Bronx as well as in his hometown of Vallejo, Calif., but he was already an established Major League player. For a 17-year-old to embark on such a project impressed the six-time All-Star, who sprang into action to support Austin’s cause.

“He’s still in high school, putting on camps for kids, trying to teach the game to kids that look like him and that look up to him, because he is a success story already,” Sabathia said. “He’s on his way to Vandy, he's a good student and a good kid. Our core mission is to get kids back playing in the inner city; this is just as important as the larger-scale work we are doing to increase opportunities for the Black community. To be able to support RJ at such a young age is the easy part.”

The Players Alliance donated gloves, bats and balls as gifts to the attendees, which Austin believes will take his camp “to the next level.”

“The Players Alliance is excited to support RJ in his mission to make a positive difference in his community,” said three-time All-Star Curtis Granderson, who is president of The Players Alliance. “This type of action is the foundation our group was built on. The Players Alliance was formed to create opportunities for the Black community in our game, from the field to the front office.

“Seeing a high school student give his time to create excitement for baseball with the kids in his neighborhood is exactly what we need to back our mission of creating lasting change. We’re happy to give him our support and hope it inspires others to lend their time, voice and resources to this cause. This is a great way to grow our game for future generations.”

An Atlanta native, Austin is a shortstop and right-handed pitcher for Pace Academy High School, and he was a member of USA Baseball’s 2021 18U National team.

Austin has tried to model his game after his two favorite current players, Tim Anderson and Ronald Acuña Jr., though the lifelong Braves fan said catcher Brian McCann was his No. 1 guy when he was younger.

“Last month was a really fun time for everybody in Atlanta,” Austin said of the Braves’ World Series run. “Being able to get together with everybody to root for the home team and see them get that far was so much fun.”

Austin hopes to hold multiple clinics throughout the year in the future, expanding his reach to influence to as many kids as possible.

“I knew the impact camps like MLB Breakthrough had on me; to love the game, have fun and work hard,” Austin said. “I wanted to do the same thing in my hometown to the younger kids and pay it forward.”