Richard Unseld Austin
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 225 lb.
OF/1B Rich Austin had a 10-year playing career in the Independent Leagues and Italy then became a manager. Despite winning MVP and All-Star honors, he never played a game for a MLB organization. During his career, he led his leagues in average, slugging (twice), walks (twice), runs, home runs, RBI and OBP.
College and Frontier League
In 2000, he set his college's record with 41 walks in a season. Undrafted, he started his career in 2001 with the Springfield Capitals in the Frontier League, hitting .260/.382/.430 with 50 walks in 76 games. He tied for second in the league in walks, one off of the pacesetter. Springfield became the Rockford RiverHawks the following season. Austin would then spend 2002-2004 with Rockford. In 2002, he batted .300/.431/.510 for Springfield, with 50 runs, 19 doubles, 11 homers and 52 walks in 73 games. He also had 12 outfield assists. He made the top 10 in homers, walks, OBP and slugging. The next year, he had an off-year at .249/.372/.357.
In 2004, he hit .359/.489/.590 with 15 homers, 71 runs, 22 steals (in 29 tries), 69 walks and 77 RBI in 84 games and was named the Frontier League MVP. He led the league in average (27 points ahead of Aaron McEachran), OBP (by .045), slugging (by two points). He also tied for second in runs (3 behind appropriately-named Darryl Blaze), tied for second in walks, tied for 9th in home runs and was second in RBI behind Mike Madrid. Baseball America named him an Independent League All-Star alongside Kimera Bartee and Adam Olow.
Northern League and Mexico
After that season, he was signed by the Kansas City Royals, but was released the following spring. Too old for the Frontier League, which has an age limit, he moved on to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the Northern League from 2005 to 2007. The first year, he put up a .337/.444/.531 line with 78 runs, 29 doubles and 59 walks in 90 games while having 12 assists. He was 7th in the circuit in average (between Fehlandt Lentini and Rick Prieto), second in OBP (trailing Chad Ehrnsberger), 5th in runs, tied for 4th in doubles and second in walks (5 behind Ehrnsberger). He was named a Northern League All-Star outfielder, joining Bryan Warner and Cory Harris in being picked.
In 2006, the Syracuse native batted .296/.390/.481 with 75 runs, 69 RBI and 22 steals in 96 games, while only being caught stealing one time. He finished third in runs (behind Joe Mathis and Lentini), tied for 8th in steals, tied for 5th in doubles (24) and was 7th in home runs (13). He was not an All-Star as Lentini, Mathis and Greg Jacobs were selected. His final season for the RedHawks, he produced at a .304/.399/.499 clip with 57 walks, 69 runs, 67 RBI, 22 doubles, 15 dingers and 12 swipes (caught once again) in 95 games. He tied for 10th in the league in runs, tied for 6th in walks and tied for tenth in home runs.
Italy, Rockford and Calgary
He moved to Italy where he played for Fortitudo Bologna in 2008-2009. In 2008, he hit .366/.475/.652 with 43 runs, 14 doubles, 10 home runs, 50 RBI and 32 walks in 42 games. He had 3 homers, 7 runs and 7 RBI in 8 postseason games as well. He finished third in the regular season in average (behind Giuseppe Mazzanti and Willie Vasquez), fourth in OBP (behind Mazzanti, Claudio Liverziani and Vasquez), first in slugging (70 points ahead of Jhonny Carvajal), tied for first in runs (with Jorge Núñez and Rayner Bautista), 3rd in hits (59, behind Bautista and Vasquez), tied Mario Chiarini for second in doubles, led in home runs (one over Carvajal), led in RBI (10 more than runner-up Jairo Ramos Gizzi), led in OPS (edging out Mazzanti by 33 points) and tying for 4th in walks. It had been five years since another player (ex-major leaguer Luis de los Santos) had led Italy with double-digit homers. He was named the Italian Baseball League All-Star center fielder (his third career All-Star team in 8 seasons) but did not win his second career MVP, as that went to Mazzanti (with Vasquez being the runner-up). After the Italian season ended in 2008, he returned to the US to go 4 for 16 for the Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League.
Back with Bologna in '09, Austin batted .299/.417/.542 with 7 homers, 26 runs, 31 RBI and 23 walks in 29 games. He tied Juan Camilo for third in homers (behind Ivanon Coffie and Eduardo Ríos), was third in slugging (trailing Eddy Garabito and Camilo) and ranked 8th in RBI (between Garabito and Carvajal). He won All-Star honors again, this time at first base. He hit .367/.545/.800 with 4 homers and 18 RBI in 9 semifinal games then was 8 for 17 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, 7 runs and 7 RBI in five games in the Italian Series to give Bologna the title.
He returned to the USA in 2010 when Rockford moved to the Northern League for a season. He hit .296 with 23 doubles and 9 homers and his 73 walks (15 more than anyone else that season) gave him the best on-base percentage in the league. He ended his playing career with an average over .300 and OBP over .400.
Managing and Coaching
In 2011, Rockford returned to the Frontier League and Rich was named to replace Bob Koopmann as the team's manager. The RiverHawks finished in last place in his first season at the helm.
Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record
|2011||Rockford RiverHawks||Frontier League||37-59||12th||Independent Leagues|
|2012||Rockford RiverHawks||Frontier League||41-55||11th||Independent Leagues|
|2013||Rockford Aviators||Frontier League||3-17||--||Independent Leagues||--||replaced by James Frisbie (33-43) June 10|
- Italian Baseball and Softball Federation
- Minnesota State University, Mankato baseball record book
- 2002-2011 Baseball Almanacs