Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Familiar faces make pro transition easy for Lakewood's Listi

Austin Listi, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- Before June, Austin Listi had never been to the northeast portion of the United States.  Two months later, the Phillies minor leaguer has made the Philadelphia region his home away from home.

A 17th round pick in this year's MLB amateur draft, Listi was lucky enough to join an organization that employed some familiar faces.

A pair of Listi's college teammates made the thought of his first trip to unfamiliar territory a bit more pleasant.  Listi, a first baseman, played at Dallas Baptist with outfielder David Martinelli for three seasons and first baseman/designated hitter Darick Hall for a season as well.

"When I was drafted by the Phillies, they called me and texted me right away," Listi said of the excitement that Martinelli and Hall had when the Phillies drafted him.  "They found out and they welcomed me to the extended family now.  They were like, 'Welcome to the family again!'"

If having friends in the organization wasn't enough to make Listi feel like he was in the right place, perhaps a former big leaguer that he once looked up to could assist with solidifying those feelings.

After signing his first professional contract, Listi reported to Clearwater, taking part in a mini camp, prior to being assigned to a team's rostern.  There, he recognized a face from some of  his earliest of childhood baseball memories.  That of current Phillies minor league infield coordinator Chris Truby.

Long before he signed with the Phils, around the age of six or seven, Listi was in attendance at a Houston Astros game with a lifelong friend and the friend's father.  The eldest of the trio, hoping to acquire a memorable souvenir for the pair of youngsters, hollered toward Truby, who was a player for the Astros at the time, expressing that Listi and his friend were two of Truby's biggest fans.

Truby, a .241 hitter during his Astros days, rewarded his devoted followers with a couple of autographed balls and some conversation.

"I didn't even know that he was part of the Phillies organization as a coordinator, so when I met him down there I told him the story and he loved it," Listi said.

Soon, Listi, who is listed at six-feet-tall and 218 pounds, was assigned to the short-season A level Crosscutters team in Williamsport, PA.  In 22 games there, he posted a .293 batting average with three home runs, 17 RBI and three steals. 

Hall, Listi and Martinelli, image- Jay Floyd
Last week, the Phils promoted the Huffman, TX native to full-season Class A Lakewood.  In his second game for the BlueClaws, the 23-year-old notched four hits, blasting a pair of solo homers in an 11-2 romp of Greensboro on the road.

Through his first nine games with Lakewood, Listi sports a .237 average.  Collecting a handful of "0-fers" during his first week on the Jersey shore area club isn't discouraging, thought, for the righty batter, as he chats about his efforts with positivity and a smile even after an unsuccessful outing.

Listi looks forward to the tough road ahead and will always welcome the ups and downs that come with the pro game.  The Phillies' mid season futures weren't so hot this year. A 90/1 shot at the World Series could be discouraging.

"I'm all about a challenge," Listi explained.  "It's just how my life has been.  I like to challenge myself.  I like difficult things to see what I'm made of and push myself."

With a mindset like that, it may not be long before Listi is making an impact at the top level of the sport.
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