When senior outfielder Austin Todd returned to campus in the fall, Texas head coach David Pierce didn’t think he was mentally ready for the 2020 baseball season.
The right fielder was one of the team’s reliable players in 2019, leading the team in RBIs and starting almost every game. But it took an infusion of youth and the sobering realization that it was his last year for Todd to get back on track.
“I thought he took off this past summer because of some injuries and kind of just checked out of baseball,” Pierce said in a press conference. “He’s a big fisherman, and there’s medicine to that. But I think that once he got on campus around a lot of this youth and realized that we’ve got a chance to win, he really started embracing his senior year.”
This season, Todd hasn’t just been on track. He’s been on fire. Through 13 games, the Round Rock High School alumnus has reached base safely in every game, hitting an impressive .351 and leading the teams in runs as the leadoff hitter.
It’s a big jump in production from his 2019 season and an impressive start to the season that led Pierce to say that Todd is the team’s best hitter a couple games into the season.
“When you look at him top to bottom, as a runner, as a guy that can handle the bat in the short game or a guy who can drive the ball in the gap with power, I think he’s our overall best player,” Pierce said.
At the plate, much of his improvement has come from a change in his mindset, which became clear after Todd worked past a string of frustrating luck that plagued him early in the season.
Against Lamar and against Boise State, Todd hit multiple hard-hit barrels that either went straight to opposing fielders or fell victim to impressive defensive plays.
“I can’t control some of the things that happen when I put the ball in play,” Todd said. “But I can control having good at-bats, seeing pitches well. That’s the only thing I’m focused on, just play good defense, win games and have good at-bats. Whatever happens, happens. I’ve kind of always had that mentality, but really coming back this senior year it set in and it really hit home.”
That mentality has resonated with the younger players as Todd has embraced his role as a senior and veteran leader on the team.
“He’s gotten past the fact that he didn’t get a hit in that at-bat or had a poor night,” Pierce said. “He knows that he’s good enough to be back in the lineup, and … he’s really gained some leadership from it and a lot of respect from his teammates.”
And while redshirt junior infielder Cam Williams might hold the nickname “Uncle,” Todd isn’t immune to passing down his own old-man wisdom.
“I told the freshmen, ‘This stuff, it goes by so fast. You blink, and you’re going from a freshman to a senior,’” Todd said. “It feels just like yesterday when I was running out on opening day against Rice my freshman year.”
He played his first opening day against Rice, and the senior’s journey came full circle when he played his last opening day against the Owls as well.
“I didn’t sleep very well that night because I knew it was my last opening day in the orange and white,” Todd said. “It was kind of bittersweet, but I’m going to go out there, I’m going to go play and I’m going to have fun. Treat it as if this is my last time playing baseball because I don’t know what’s going to happen after this year.”
Todd has become one of the best players on this Texas team and in the Big 12 because he’s treated his senior season as if it’s his last.
The ironic part is that he’s played so well, it might not be.