Life Lessons from Former Major Leaguer, New York Life Agent Rick Austin
Former Major League pitcher and New York Life Agent Rick Austin of Kansas City is now an “MVP” in business — and it all started at age six with youth baseball.
Prior to becoming an insurance agent with New York Life Insurance Company, Rick Austin had an impressive baseball career: All-State high school in 1964, All-American pitcher at Washington State University in1968, and No. 1 draft pick for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1968.
Mr. Austin pitched for the Cleveland Indians in 1970 and ’71, spent the 1974 season with the Hankyu Braves in Japan and then returned to Major League Baseball to pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975 and ’76.
As New York Life launches its Little League Baseball and Softball sponsorship program, Mr. Austin shares what he learned playing baseball, and why he believes the sport is a “microcosm of life.”
When and where did you first play youth baseball?
I started playing youth baseball when I was around six years old in a suburb of Tacoma, Wash., called Lakewood. I was fortunate to have a lot of dads who were really interested in putting together good teams and teaching us the right way to play the game. Fortunately, when I was little, I learned how to pitch properly with the right mechanics. I had a great time.
What are some of your memories of playing baseball when you were a child?
During my first year in youth baseball, we competed against teams that were sometimes older and much better than we were at the time. I remember we played a team with gray and yellow uniforms — and they absolutely smashed us into the ground. We had no clue how good they were, and they were only one year older than us!
What did you gain from that “whupping” by the gray and yellow team?
It raised the bar on what we had to do. Even when we didn’t have a scheduled practice, we were out on a diamond playing baseball somewhere. We’d tape up an old ball and bat and use them until you couldn’t use them anymore. We learned our lesson and from the second year on, we had a winning team with good coaching. I was taller than a lot of kids my age, so I played against older kids much of the time and that also raised the bar on my game.
What lessons did you learn in youth baseball that benefitted your baseball career?
I learned some valuable lessons through my athletic days, starting with youth baseball. Our coaches taught us to be good sports — we didn’t yell at the other team or speak badly about them. I’ve learned how to work with people, how to trust teammates and how to treat people properly. You work hard and try to win the game, but you do it being someone with character.
“You work hard and try to win the game, but you do it being someone with character.”
And how did those lessons translate to your career as a New York Life Agent?
I’ve always felt that sports are a microcosm of life, because all the things that happen in the sports world also happen in life. That translates to my career. My job is to be informed enough so when someone has a need, I am able to solve that need with the solutions I provide. To me, doing that successfully is the difference between winning and losing. Life, business and athletics are all that way - it’s about winning with integrity.
Who are some of your mentors and favorite coaches?
I was very blessed to have great coaches and mentors along the way. One was my college baseball coach, Chuck “Bobo” Brayton, who coached for 33 years at Washington State University. This man knew how to coach and bring out the best in his players. He taught us character and the right way to win the game.
Also, when I played in Japan, we had a very wise interpreter named Fuji. He would talk to us about Japanese baseball and life and the importance of treating people with kindness. Coach Brayton and Fuji were great mentors to me, along with my own father who taught me so much through every sport.
What are your thoughts on New York Life’s Little League Baseball and Softball sponsorship?
I’m very pleased that New York Life is moving into this arena, and I see us doing many positive things for children, and providing a great training ground for their future. I would encourage anyone who has a Little League in their community to be involved in any way possible — not only for sponsorship, but also to teach those kids your skills and pass them along to someone else.