Austin Vernon is a promising prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays system. The Raleigh native was selected in the 10th round of the 2021 MLB draft with the 311th overall pick. In 22 minor league games, the 23-year-old has posted a 2.09 ERA and struck out 114 batters. He was recently promoted to High-A after posting a 1.69 ERA for the Charleston RiverDogs.
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What the draft process was like for Vernon
Jamie Gatlin: What was the draft process like for you?
Austin Vernon: My brother had been through it, so I had an idea of what to expect. It was interesting, though. Going into the draft, I had drawn interest from a few teams. I was expecting to get picked on the second day. It was a little frustrating to sit around and wait. It was a fun experience, though.
JG: Were you expecting the Rays to draft you?
AV: I honestly was not expecting the Rays at all. I started talking to teams in the fall of my junior year of college, and I didn’t talk to the Rays once. On the second day of the draft, I got phone calls from the Nationals, Athletics, and a couple of other teams. I was expecting to get picked by one of those teams because of how early they called. I’m happy with the organization I’m in. They have helped me a lot.
Life after the draft and the impact of college ball
JG: How did North Carolina Central University help prepare you for the minors?
AV: They gave me an opportunity to get my feet wet. I learned a lot throughout the years through the different pitching coaches that I had. They taught me how to be a pitcher and not a thrower. The program instilled a drive in me to get better every day.
HISTORY!! Check out #NCCUBaseball's reaction to Austin Vernon throwing the FIRST No-Hitter in the modern era at NCCU!#EaglePride @NCAACWS @NCCUBaseball @BaseballAmerica @espn pic.twitter.com/gJEfSQf3XJ
— NCCU Athletics (@NCCUAthletics) May 8, 2021
JG: What was it like to play in the Cape Cod League?
AV: I loved my time in the Cape, and you can’t beat playing for Chatham. That league showed me a lot and being around the best of the best college-wise helped me with my game. Being able to pick the brains of other players at big D1 schools and see their routines was a great experience.
JG: What was it like to be part of a no-hitter?
AV: It was surreal to be part of. The first time I faced that team, I’m pretty sure I gave up six runs in three innings. To go from that to not giving up a hit was pretty crazy. I didn’t get to go out for the ninth inning, but it was still cool.
What to expect in the second half from Vernon
JG: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
AV: One thing I’m looking to focus on is my fastball command. If I can get that down, it will help limit my walks. Being able to throw anything I want for a strike will be huge. My goal is to be a more complete pitcher.
JG: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
AV: My brother has had the most significant influence. I can always count on him to help me out, whether it’s with pitch mechanics or preparing for the minors. Rather than just getting thrown into the fire, I already knew what to expect. My parents have also had a big influence, whether it’s been pushing me to be better or taking me to games when I was younger.
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Main Image Credit: https://hbcusports.com/2021/07/13/north-carolina-central-hurler-austin-vernon-taken-by-tampa-bay-in-mlb-draft/