Most Major League Baseball games are packed with thousands of kids who are dying to get their hands on a home-run ball, and 14-year-old Austin Bode is no different.
Bode has been standing side by side with his father Max at the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park since he was 6, and each game, he never misses a swing. There is no leaving early to beat traffic with Austin. He witnesses every pitch from start to finish, regardless of the score.
He wastes no time on food breaks or souvenir shopping — who needs to buy a souvenir when you can catch one from the stands? Austin is notorious for walking out of the Reds games with game balls. His personal record for most baseballs in a game is up to nine.
“He’s always loved baseball,” Max said. “He was kind of an autograph hound at the Reds games. He’s got batting gloves from players, a lot of autographs and baseballs and stuff. I never got a baseball when I went to a Reds games.”
Austin enjoys being a spectator at major-league parks, but when he found out he was invited to play in one at last year’s International Power Showcase, he jumped off the couch in disbelief.
Max was unsure of what it was, but Austin was all too familiar with Washington Nationals player Bryce Harper’s 502-foot home run during the 2009 Power Showcase.
The International Power Showcase invites the top teenage baseball players from around the world to participate in a scout day, baseball game and the highly-anticipated Home Run Derby. Today, the Columbus catcher will be back in Marlins Park for this year’s event.
“Going to Miami was a really great experience,” Bode said. “It just didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.”
The first day of he showcase, Bode was evaluated on his running, throwing and pop-up times in front of 30 MLB scouts. He didn’t hit any home runs in the derby, and he walked both times at the plate during the game.
Austin was a bit intimidated when he came to Miami, swinging the bat in a stadium which holds almost 37,000 people. He had nowhere near a Bryce Harper-type of night and left a little disappointed.
Bode redeemed himself last month at the Texas Rangers’ Global Life Park when he stepped up to the plate, took a hard swing and, 11 home runs later, earned a sixth-place finish in the National Power Showcase. Bode had three balls travel past 400 feet, with his longest going 408 feet.
“In Texas, I had a feel for Miami, so I was used to that kind of environment, Bode said. “I felt a little more comfortable with where I was at. (This year in Miami) I feel like I should do better if not the same as I did in Texas.”
Austin is no stranger to playing in big moments. Catching for the Indiana Bulls travel team for almost five years has allowed him to compete at the highest level nationally and internationally. The Bulls were considered one of this year’s to 20 teams in the nation and were invited the the Perfect Game Top 20 Tourney in Emerson, Georgia, where they got to play against some of the greatest players of their age group.
Bulls head coach Mike Vaughn said Bode does not shy away from the big stage, and the bigger the moment, the better he plays.
“He just separates himself from the rest of them just with his talents,” Vaughn said. “He is years beyond a normal 14-year-old kid. He just understands the game more than a 14-year-old kid does. Kids three and four years older than him don’t have the talents that he does now.”
Austin has enjoyed being able to play baseball against the best of the best, but one of his most memorable moments as a baseball player are some of the things he has enjoyed away from the diamond. He made friends almost 2,000 miles away from home by visiting a fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was an opportunity granted by his stellar baseball performance. Austin and the rest of his Indiana Bulls team won a trip to Puerto Rico to play baseball by winning a tournament in Cincinnati.
“Everything was cool about that trip; it wasn’t just playing,” Bode said. “I loved playing baseball there, too, but I loved all of the other things that we did. Just spending time there was awesome.”
He started playing baseball when he was a toddler and after playing in 14 different states and one other country, Austin has become a household name across youth baseball. His mother asked him how it feels to be known nationwide at such a young age, and his humble response was “I don’t take it for granted.”
Austin understands how fortunate he is to have the talents that he has and uses his talents to help give back to his community and others around him.
The Power Showcase encourages the players to participate in the “Home Runs that Help” charity, where they help raise money for a specific cause or need in their community. Last year, Austin partnered with his then-10-year-old cousin Brendan Barnett, who has Down syndrome.
Barnett attends Schmitt Elementary School, and his class was in need of funding for a specific type of chair to help better assist the students in the classroom. Austin and Barnett thought it would be a good idea to allow people to pledge money for each home run Austin hit or per foot of his longest hit.
Bode was able to help Barnett raise $1,005, despite not hitting any home runs in the derby. Donors pledged a minimum contribution if the home runs did not equal the specified amount.
This year, Austin is partnering with another family member with Down syndrome, 5-year-old Kaleena Carothers, to raise money fro the Riley Heart Center. He is poised and ready to perform well and help raise even more than he did a year ago.
Name: Austin Bode
School: White Creek Lutheran
Sports: Baseball, basketball
Travel baseball team: Indiana Bulls
Key accomplishments: batted .610 in 109 games for Bulls this year, made Perfect Game Top 20 Tourney Team