BY AARON SNYDER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL When middle school coach Dale Hensley simply filled a need, he probably didn’t realize he was sturdying up the varsity team’s backstop for the next few years.
Russell catcher Austin Brinkman, formerly a shortstop in Little League, answered
Hensley’s call. Now, he makes the calls.
“Coach (Hensley) said he needed a catcher and kinda threw me back there,” Brinkman recalled.
The fifth-year varsity player said he just accepted the task as a job needing done.
“I was just doing a job and soon fell in love with it,” Brinkman said.
Red Devils coach Tim Rice has loved having him behind the dish, but he understands he can’t stay in Flatwoods forever. Georgetown College is aware of that, too. Brinkman signed a letter of intent with the Tigers on Monday afternoon at Russell High School.
Rice said he immediately noticed how “baseball-intelligent” Brinkman was when he joined the Red Devils staff prior to the 2015 season.
Brinkman has been the primary starter at catcher since.
“He calls all the games,” Rice said. “He knows when to look over if he needs some help, but he’s very mature for his age. He’s a kid who’s going to work his butt off and continue to get better.”
Brinkman’s impact on sophomore Grant Wilburn has been invaluable, said Rice. Wilburn will likely be Brinkman’s replacement behind the plate. Labeled a “sponge” by Brinkman, Wilburn has caught in a handful of games this season.
“Grant told me the other day that he’s as good as he is because of the help Austin’s given him,” Rice said. “He’s just giving him pointers and tips in games that Austin’s not playing or when Austin’s pitching. You’re getting that kind of leader at Georgetown. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got on the field pretty early there.”
Entering Monday’s game against Paintsville, Brinkman had logged six pitching appearances as a senior. He was sporting a .270 batting average with four doubles and 15 RBIs.
Brinkman said the nucleus of this particular team — the 10 seniors on the roster — give Russell a strong chance to advance deep into the postseason. Monday’s loss to Paintsville put the Red Devils at 20-13.
“I want to go a long way,” Brinkman said. “Me, (Nick) Conley, (Landon) Brewer, we’ve been here for a long time, and that’s a goal for us all. We believe in it and think we can go all the way.”
Upon the season’s conclusion, he’ll look to Georgetown. The Tigers went 32-19 this season, including a 9-9 mark in the NAIA’s Mid-South Conference.
“I took a couple visits there, and I like the small feel,” Brinkman said. “It kinda has that community feel to it. I kinda like knowing everybody, and that’s how that campus makes me feel.”
Brinkman said he will either go into pre-medical or pre-dental studies.
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