HERNANDO, Miss. — There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors to help clear the mind.
“Hunting is what I do all off-season. It’s crazy for 162 games so being able to sit in a tree stand by yourself for a couple hours is nice to just relax,” Austin Riley said.
While Austin Riley spends most of his off season hunting deer and duck, starting next week he’ll be hunting fast balls and off-speed pitches.
“I felt like in the past going into spring training I was searching for something whether it was my swing I was trying to fine tune, this off-season I feel like I already fine tuned my swing, it’s as consistent as it ever has been. I am ready to hit spring full blast,” Riley said.
After four years in the minors, Austin Riley, graduate of DeSoto Central High School, broke onto the major league scene last May.
“You work from the time I started tee ball and all you think about is making it to the big leagues, to go up there and have immediate success is just kind of icing on the cake,” Riley said.
Now Riley is selling himself a little short, cause the old cliche, off to a hot start, doesn’t do the young man justice. Not only did Riley homer in his first game in the bigs, but he went on to hit 7 home runs in his first 14 professional games, a stat that ranks third all time in the MLB.
“You know to ride that wave, I was trying to ride it as long as I could. To be able to go that long is pretty cool,” Riley said.
From May 15 to June 30, Riley hit 14 long balls. But pitchers would make an adjustment, and from July 2 on, Riley had a batting average of .156 and hit just four homers.
“I think a lot of that was just putting a lot of pressure on myself, knowing that I belong there and I should be there instead of trusting myself I was searching for answers, and I really didn’t need to,” Riley said.
Since then, Riley has tweaked his swing and with free agent Josh Donaldson signing with the Twins, Riley will compete for the starting job at third base. with his second MLB season on the horizon, the 22-year old is focused on striking back, not striking out.
“Really just have confidence that yeah, it’s a game of failure you are going to go through struggles, but it’s the good ones that stay consistent. Those are the guys that play a long time and that’s kind of the thought process I’ve had,” Riley said.
So, with a good shot and a good swing, this year Riley looks to put consistency in his cross-hairs.