In his first season with the Wichita Wingnuts, reliever Austin Boyle has become a key member of the team’s bullpen. His love of accounting and numbers combined with his passion for the game is helping to create the right balance sheet to help the team on their way to their seventh straight South Division title in the American Association.
Accounting is considered one of the most dispassionate of all of the occupations that one could choose as a career path. In all seriousness, no one ever says, “I’m so fired up to that I get to work on those tax returns today” or “Making sure that the accounts receivable and accounts payable matchup really gets me going.”
The truth is that most who get involved in the field do so because they love the coldness of the job. For those who put their stock in personality tests, those who choose to be accountants are overwhelmingly introverted, thinkers, and problem solvers. They prefer things to be much more structured and this is why resolving issues with numbers makes it such a perfect occupation for them.
This doesn’t seem like the ideal occupation for a guy playing baseball. Athletes need to be passionate about what they do so that they can push themselves to do one more set, run one more mile, take one more round of batting practice. To be analytical and introverted doesn’t seem to be the right kind of blend. At least, that is what you might think until you meet Wichita Wingnuts reliever Austin Boyle. He is an analytical thinker who also blends a fiery passion for baseball, making him one of the keys for a team who needs all hands-on deck as they push forward toward their second American Association title in four seasons.
Developing Assets for Future Success
Austin Boyle grew up in Southern California, living about 10 minutes from Angels’ Stadium. His parents took him to see their Major League team on a regular basis, and it was not long before the right-hander knew that this was the sport for him.
“I just fell in love with the game. I started playing Little League, then high school, then college and now I’m here. It’s just always been a part of my life.”
Austin played football and basketball growing up, but after he stopped growing he realized that baseball was the sport he wanted to focus on. In high school, he starred at El Modena High (Orange, CA), playing both ways. However, it was during his time in high school that he realized that he liked pitching a lot more.
“I played both ways throughout high school. I got a couple offers in college to play a position but I just was always a better pitcher. I had a pretty good arm growing up and it was just something that I enjoyed. I enjoy having the ball, starting all the action of every game. Being out there when the game is on the line.”
Austin earned two varsity letters at the school and helped the Vanguards to win the Century League title in his senior season. He was named the league’s top pitcher that year, and was also awarded All-CIF First-Team honors, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64.1-innings pitched with 63-strikeouts.
Contingency Plan Helps Improve Portfolio
After graduating high school, Austin Boyle went to Long Beach State. He spent one season there, making 10-appearances, including one start.
The next season, the right-hander moved to Cal Poly Pomona but was battling some arm injuries. That led to him not being able to pitch until the 2013 season, where he made 5-appearances.
The following season, the arm was fully healed and it showed. Austin made 18-appearances for the Broncos, posting a 4-0 record and a 1.83 ERA in 34.1-innings pitched. He also saved 3-games and struck out 43.
In 2015, he proved to be as strong as ever. The right-hander made 29-appearances, saving 4-games, posting a 1-2 record and a 2.32 ERA. He struck out 39 in 31-innings and allowed 23-hits. It was an impressive follow-up season and a testament to the fact that the assets were truly there for him to succeed.
Creating a Contingent Gain to Advance Career
After graduating, Austin Boyle was not selected in the 2016 MLB draft, primarily because teams shied away from selecting out of concern for his arm. However, he knew he had the right balance sheet to be able to play professional baseball, and so the right-hander joined Garden City in the Pecos League.
Austin spent a season with the Wind and had a huge year there. In 2016, he made 13-starts, posting an 8-3 record and 2-complete games. He tossed a single-season high of 87-innings and struck out 77. His performance helped Garden City win the North Division with the third best record in the Pecos League (38-26), and they appeared in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Austin Boyle Adding to Profitability of Wingnuts Pitching Staff
Following the 2016 season, Austin Boyle was looking for a new place to advance his career. He had proven that his arm was healed and that he could handle the rigors of a full season. The Wichita Wingnuts happened to be looking for bullpen help, and thought that the right-hander would be the perfect addition.
“He’s got good stuff,” Wichita Wingnuts Manager Pete Rose, Jr. explained before the season. “We are always looking for arms that will make us stronger, and there is no doubt that Austin is a huge addition here.”
That is exactly what Austin Boyle has proven to be. He has been a great addition to the Wingnuts bullpen, appearing in 27-games and posting an impressive 2.93 ERA with a 1-1 record and one-save.
That save came in a tight matchup with the Lincoln Saltdogs, where his manager turned to the 25-year-old to close out a game against the best and hottest team in the American Association. Austin issued a two-out walk, but then struck out one of the league’s best power hitters to close out the game for his first professional save.
Assets Mature Over Time
The play of Austin Boyle on the field is not just about talent. He has grown a great deal as a person, and recognizes that it has been others who worked with him that have helped to make him a better ballplayer and a better man.
“I definitely have grown a lot since I left high school. I always had a good arm, but I didn’t really know how to pitch. At Long Beach State, they have a great pitching coach who really molded me into who I am today. I’m just building off of what I learned there, and I have been very fortunate to have had great coaches wherever I have played who have taught me a lot about coaching and how to carry myself.”
Austin has also shown a great resilience in understanding that baseball is not always fair. While the sport is about what occurs between the lines (fair territory), it is a humbling sport as well because you can do all the right things and still find that nothing is going your way. That can be quite frustrating and takes a certain kind of mentality to thrive in a game that is built on failure.
“As a competitor, it’s hard. The good thing about baseball is that you get to play every day. You get to come back the next day and do it all over again so you try to flush it the night before. Get a good night sleep and start all over.”
He also chooses to focus on the positive. This is a sport where it would be easy to let yourself get frustrated, but the right-hander has created a frame of mind that is allowing him to enjoy it more.
“There definitely more good days than bad days. Days where you don’t feel great but the results are still there. Then days where you feel great but that nothing seems to go right. At the end of the day, the numbers are in the pitcher’s favor so you just try to go out there and do your job every day. To just get through it, to get through the rough days, keeping in mind that you have more chances. That is the best part; if you have a bad day you can always change that tomorrow.”
The Volatility of the Market
While he may have majored in a field that requires someone to be somewhat cold and calculated, the truth is that Austin Boyle is a totally different person once the signal is given for him to enter a game. It is the “switch” that is turned on that changes him from easy-going guy to passionate competitor.
Austin is a fiery player once he enters games, focused on being the better man in his one-on-one battle with the opposing hitter. He is passionate about his success, knowing his team is counting on him to get outs, but he has found that his emotions can get the best of him.
“I’m naturally kind of a fiery person. If I’m not doing so well, then I’m usually overthrowing or a little too antsy. So, when the catcher comes out they’re usually trying to calm me down. The other guys they’re trying to light a fire under but, for me, I’m a little too amped up sometimes when I get out there.”
While all athletes are passionate about their sport, baseball requires you to harness that fervor because passion can do more harm than good. Being more passionate can make you hit someone harder in football which can make you a better linebacker, or make you drive harder toward the goal to generate a scoring chance in hockey. However, in baseball, not harnessing that hunger can lead to more mistakes than benefits. Austin credits one man in helping him be as exceptional between his ears as he is with his arm.
“I’m a lot stronger mental person. I was lucky at Long Beach that we had a really good sports psychologist to work with us. His name was Ken Ravizza; he’s pretty big in the baseball world. He really helped me to just slow the game down when things aren’t going your way. Just getting older you get more in tuned with your own body, what you need to do to get ready, stuff like that. It’s just experience and he helped me to put all of that together.”
Applying the 80-20 Rule to His Craft
There is an idea in business that is referred to the 80-20 rule. What this means is that 20 percent of things usually bring you 80 percent of the benefits. For example, 80 percent of the business that an organization does likely comes from 20 percent of its customers. At work, 20 percent of the employees likely do 80 percent of the work. It is even believed that that 20 percent of the people in the world own 80 percent of the wealth.
Baseball is very much like this in that what is required to reach the highest level of the sport is more about the mental approach that one takes and less about physical talent. As Wichita Wingnuts outfielder Richard Prigatano points out, “There is not really much difference between someone in the Majors and a guy in rookie ball, at least in terms of skill level. Everyone can throw 90-plus, everyone can hit a fastball, everyone can hit the ball hard. The difference is consistency and the way that they approach the game. It is the mental aspect of their preparation and how they handle adversity where the separation occurs.”
Yankee legend Yogi Berra agreed when he once quipped, “Baseball in 90 percent half mental.” Those at the Major League level understand that one must be mentally tough to be able to succeed. Austin Boyle understands that as well.
“This is something that comes with maturity. It takes time to learn how to shake off a bad day or a bad pitch, but you have to do it. There are a lot of times when you are doing things right and it is still going bad for you. You can’t let that affect you. If you do you will make mistakes every time you pitch.”
There is also a need to believe in one’s self. Because there is so much failure in baseball and failures are magnified, one must be able to wash away the mistake of the previous day, the previous inning, or even the previous pitch, and trust that the next pitch you throw is going to get the out you need.
“I know I can get guys out. You have to believe that. I have to know that my best is better than his (the batter’s) best. I know that more times than not as the pitcher I’m going to beat them. I’m just going out there trying to throw strikes, to get after it, to get ahead in the count early. When things are not going well, then I have to remind myself. I know I am going to have success more often than I will not. I think you then have to believe that even when you don’t make your best pitch you are still going to get outs.”
To achieve that goal, a player has to use every advantage at his disposal. Sometimes, that can be remembering the slights.
“Not being drafted puts a little chip on your shoulder. I’m one of only four or five guys on this team who weren’t drafted, so it it’s cool that we have made it this far and we’re playing with those guys again. It’s definitely a little motivation.”
A Capital Investment Makes for a Strong Balance Sheet
When you put all of that together, it is easy to see why Austin Boyle is having so much success for the Wichita Wingnuts this season. He is a true competitor with skill, talent, and the right approach. However, that success would be nothing without the hard work that has made it all reality, and he gives full credit to his parents, Debi and John, for giving him that work ethic.
“Both are hard-working people. They didn’t come from a lot of money but made it so that we had what we needed so that we could pursue our dreams. They really taught us the value of hard work. They have also been so supportive. My dad would be at every one of my baseball games, helping me out before the game, after the games. He definitely has been my biggest inspiration.”
John and Debi Boyle may be inspiring their son to a point where he is standing on Major League mound one day. That may be a few years off but, for now, they will be whooping and hollering as their son helps lead the Wichita Wingnuts to the American Association title. Maybe Austin Boyle has to control his passion, but they sure don’t.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA