Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Austin Listi: One step closer to the Majors

Photo courtesy of George Youngs Jr.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

By Lou Roesch
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved

HUFFMAN, TEXAS (July 2, 2019) Triple AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs newest member is Huffman, Texas native Austin Listi (shown right). Listi, the reigning Philadelphia Phillies Minor League Player of the Year is one step away from the pinnacle of professional baseball all in less than two years. How does a 17th round pick travel so far so fast? The 25 year old has one answer; GOD.

Austin Listi is a professional ball player but that is third on the list of who he is. He is a Christian, a husband and father and then a ballplayer and he is not ashamed to let you know it. He knows that he is where he is not by chance but by GOD’s hand.

“God has directed every step,” shared Listi in his final interview at Double AA Reading eleven days ago. “Since my return to DBU for my junior year, I have felt God telling me this is where I want you and what I want you to do. I am where I belong whether it was DBU, two trips here to Reading or anywhere else. He has put people in my life leading me first to DBU, a school I hadn’t even considered coming out of high school. It was there I met Darick Hall.”

Hall was not only Listi’s teammate at DBU but also Lakewood and then Reading and maybe one day in the majors. Listi and Hall have shared many experiences especially the mission trip in the fall of 2015. It was a trip that put a lot of things into perspective for the DBU all-time home run leader. Things such as service to others less fortunate. It was a moment to realize how blessed he had been to be born in the United States and not to take things for granted.

At Reading, Hall and Listi were back to back in the Fight’in Phils lineup and produced some memorable moments like in game two of last Thursday’s (June 20) game two of the twi-night doubleheader. Trailing 1-0 as the game entered the home fourth, Hall blistered a double off the wall and Listi brought him home with his final hit at Double AA. The next day, the Reading third baseman would get the call he had been hoping for since last season. In fact, the call came exactly two years to the day he received another call.

On June 20, 2017, the DBU alum received a call from his agent while sitting in the living room of parent’s home surrounded by friends and family watching the MLB draft. His agent called to say that his dream of playing professionally had come true. All the hard work from T-ball to that point had paid off. It was in that same living room that Listi received the call inviting him as a non-roster player to his first MLB spring training in 2019.

Photo courtesy of George Youngs Jr.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
As spring training wound down, Listi (shown left) expected to start 2019 at Triple AAA Lehigh Valley. Instead, the Phillies told him he was going back to Reading and that he should start learning how to play third base. The disappointment, Listi recalls was a lesson in humility, pride and thankfulness considering the fact that only one half of one percent (1 out of 200) high school ballplayers will ever be drafted with a shot to play in the majors and here he was living the dream.

“After I swallowed my pride,” continued Listi. “I was able to look at the opportunity as a blessing. Here was an organization who thought enough of me and my skills to say here is how we feel your skills can best help you and the Phillies going down the road. Here was a path for me to the majors so I put my head down and went to work trusting that GOD would take care of the details.”

More bad news followed at Reading that would continue to test his faith and determination. An 0 for 25 April start at the plate will do that to a ballplayer. His bat was swinging well but the hits weren’t falling and the team was struggling.

“I had to trust in my mechanics,” said Listi. “I continued to work hard and had faith it would turn around. In the meantime, I knew if I wasn’t hitting I needed to be doing my job defensively (only 7 errors in 350 plus innings and more than 100 chances) but most of all I had to be the best teammate I could be both on the field and in the clubhouse so that’s what I tried to do.”

Off the diamond, the husband of wife Krystal and young son Weston works hard to be a good husband and father. His wife, a former DBU volleyball player, understands the rigors of working to become the best. “Her support has been critical to our success. It’s been a team effort to say the least.” Listi recounted many times how he would walk in from a tough game and just the joy and love he saw in the faces of his family drained away the trials and tribulations. As he put it, “they are my sunshine.”

Listi turned the O for April into a solid May and an incredible June. His faith, determination and hard work were paying off. His bat came alive and so too did the Fight’in Phils. In June alone, the young infielder hit .353 with a double, four homers, 12 RBI and a 1.004 OPS thru 16 games. The week prior to his call up Listi earned player of the week honors with a sizzling slash line .455/.478/.727 that includes two home runs, four RBI and three runs scored. The Fight’in Phils were in a first place battle with Trenton when he caught the plane to meet the Iron Pigs n the Road in Colorado. His work there was done.

The Phillies minor league phenom picked up at Lehigh right where he left off at Reading letting his bat and glove do the talking. In his first nine games with the Iron Pigs (honestly where do they get these names), Listi is hitting at a .361 clip with seven extra base hits including five home runs, 9 RBI and eight runs scored not to mention an OPS of 1.272. With just 13 errors in the last two seasons, the corner guy (first, third, left field, right field) has a .986 fielding percentage.

Although ballplayers don’t normally care to be compared to other ballplayers, I couldn’t help but think about the comparison between Listi and two major league multiple position standouts in Ben Zobrist (DBU alum) and Matt Carpenter. Although both tasted the major league level early in their careers, Listi is ahead of both of them and if the bat and glove continue to perform don’t be surprised if this quiet, unassuming man of faith doesn’t get another call come late August telling him to report to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

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