This is the sixth in a series of interviews conducted by Steve Potter.
Minor League Spot Light: Austin Bossart
Austin Bossart was the Phillies 14th round draft pick in the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from O’Fallon High School in O’Fallon, Illinois where as a senior he led the baseball team to a 31-6 record and was a first team all state selection.
He went on to an outstanding four year career at Penn where he earned the Ivy League’s Co-Player of the year award in his senior season and was also a semi-finalist for the Johny Bench Award which goes to the top catcher in NCAA Division 1 Baseball. He led the Quakers in batting average at .358, hits (49), and OBP (.420) while recording 13 doubles, 4 home runs and 27 RBI’s. He was a .302 hitter for his four year NCAA career in 578 at bats with 11 home runs and 88 RBI’s, he even had 22 stolen bases!
In his first pro season he played in 37 games at short season Williamsport and hit .333 in 138 at bats, had 1 home run and 19 RBI’s with an OBP of .359. Last summer he split time between Low A Lakewood and High A Clearwater. In 30 games at Lakewood he hit .263 in 99 at bats with a .336 OBP, he was promoted to Clearwater on June 23rd and finished the season there playing in 18 games hitting .340 in 53 at bats with an OBP of .368. Austin appeared in 4 games in the prestigious Arizona Fall League to conclude the 2016 season.
(Editor’s note: Austin was the catcher on July 10, 2016 when Drew Anderson, Will Morris, and Victor Arano combined to throw a no-hitter against the St. Lucie Mets. Anderson was lifted after four innings due to a rain delay. It was Anderson’s first start with Clearwater and Bossart’s fourth. It was the first time he had caught all three pitchers in a game.)
Here are a few questions I recently asked him and his responses.
What was your favorite team growing up? Did that change at all while you attended Penn? Did you get a chance to go to any Phillies games while in school?
” My favorite team growing up was the St. Louis Cardinals mostly because I grew up 20 minutes outside of the city for most of my life. I got to watch some great baseball and even better players who I could look up to when I was a young baseball player. Once I got to Penn I couldn’t abandon my hometown team, but I did go to a few Phillies games during my time there. The ballpark is beautiful and the great fans make it such a fun atmosphere for baseball.”
I heard you also played Hockey in high school? What position? Any relatable skills to being a catcher in baseball?
” I was a defenseman when I played hockey throughout high school. Of course the hand eye coordination is relatable, but I think the greatest thing about hockey for me was the separation from baseball. It allowed me to grow as an athlete and a person, and I am convinced that it is one of the greatest reasons for my success today.”
Were you always a catcher or did you also play other positions at some point?
” I have always gravitated towards catcher. The gear always seemed cool to me as a kid, so whenever they needed someone to suit up I would volunteer. I played 3rd base and pitcher through high school as well, and I even got to play some right field in college summer ball one year.”
This is your third summer as a pro and second spring training, you were also here early this spring, could you detail a little the routine that catchers go thru in spring training? I often see you guys on the run from the back mounds to the fields in tandem with your pitchers.
“Catching is a very interesting position during spring training. It is always my job to be there for the pitchers whenever they may need me, whether it be to catch a bullpen or just a flat ground while they are playing catch. We usually start off with a lot of bullpens, but as games get started things settle into more of a routine. When you see us going from the back mounds to the game, that usually means we were scheduled to play in whatever inning that pitcher is entering the game.”
You’ve now spent time at three locations in your pro career, Williamsport, Lakewood and Clearwater, what stands out to you about each area in regards to playing venue?
” I have been very fortunate to play in each of those affiliates. They all have a wonderful staff that truly cares for the players that shuffle through year in and year out, and they all have top of the line facilities with amazing history.”
Who has had the biggest impact on you during your baseball career?
“I can’t single out one person, my entire family has been the biggest impact during my baseball career. They are the sole reason I am able to show up to the ballpark every day and do what I love with very few worries off the field. The sacrifices they make help me realize how fortunate I am, and it drives me to be not only the greatest baseball player, but the greatest person I can be every day.”
Talk a little about growing up in O’Fallon, where is it, small town?
“O’Fallon is a town about 20 minutes east of St. Louis in southern Illinois. Growing up there, I got a bit of the small town feel while still being able to experience a city. It is very cool that you can drive 20 minutes in one direction and be out in a beautiful open field and then drive 20 minutes in another direction and be in the heart of a city. Most of my family lives in the area as well, so whenever I am home we are able to have family get togethers and enjoy time together.”
Attending an Ivy League school the academic aspect must have been an equally challenging task to baseball, what was your major and how did you balance baseball and academics?
“I majored in Economics with minors in Math and Computer Science. It was definitely a tough balance, and it taught me very early on how to manage time as effectively as possible. I really had to separate baseball and school, so as soon as I got to the locker room my mind would be completely focused on baseball, while in the classroom my mind would be completely focused on the material. Of course all of that is easier said than done, but it was one of the most rewarding challenges of my life.”
I have seen you catch and you are an excellent defender behind the dish, is that something you have always prided yourself in? What do you consider to be your biggest strength? What area do you need to improve if any🤓?
“I appreciate you saying that, and it is definitely something I take a lot of pride in. I also pride myself in being able to control a baseball game from behind the plate. I want everyone, especially the pitcher, to be comfortable with me behind the plate because catchers handle the baseball throughout most of the game. That being said, I can always improve at the plate and behind the plate. I’m always trying to lower my pop time, block everything thrown my direction, receive the ball better, call a better game, have a more consistent approach at the plate, etc.”
Minor League life is often described as a grind, take me thru a day in the life of Austin Bossart during the season please.
” During the season, my day usually doesn’t start until about 10 when I wake up. I usually try to grab a good breakfast and then head to the field around 12 or 1. Once at the field I will work out and go to the cages for some early hitting before the team stretches together. If I am not in the lineup that day I will go catch bullpens right after stretch. Then, whether I am in the lineup or not, I will go hit BP around 4. After the opposing team takes BP we will go take Infield at around 5:30 or 6, then get ready for a game at 7. The games usually end around 10, so we head inside, shower up, and have whatever dinner the team provides for us after the game. So I will probably be back home at 11, but sometimes that is as late as 12 or 12:30. I will then read a bit in bed and start it all over the next day.”
Since you played at Penn your somewhat familiar with the Phillies fan base, what should they expect to see when watching you play?
“The Phillies fan base should expect a catcher that will work hard every single day. I will do everything in my power to help the pitching staff be the best they can be, and I will respect the game of baseball because it has given me so much in my life.”
Thanks to Austin for taking the time to answer my questions, he’s another young player to keep an eye on this summer in the system.