A Fort Saskatchewan baseball player will be heading to the United States this summer.
17-year-old Parker Austin will get his college baseball career started in Missouri after accepting a scholarship with William Woods University.
"I never saw myself going to Missouri, but it's super cool and a dream come true," said Austin.
The left-handed pitcher's roots are in Fort Saskatchewan, having played hockey for the U15 AA Rangers before deciding to pursue baseball full-time.
"I grew up as the typical Fort Saskatchewan kid playing hockey," said Austin. "I was also at the Vimy Ridge Baseball Academy in Edmonton."
"It was kind of a decision based on what I was better at, and at the time it was baseball. It was an easy choice for me, but I still love hockey and go to a bunch of Hawks and Rangers games when I'm home."
With baseball taking priority for Austin, he started playing with the Sherwood Park U18 AAA Dukes before eventually leaving home to attend the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball for his final two years of high school.
"It was really exciting," said Austin. "I wasn't too worried about leaving home, it was an opportunity that came, and it was something I'd always wanted to do."
"Vauxhall has a high reputation for sending guys to the next level, so when I had the opportunity to go it was really exciting for me and my family."
The move was a change of pace for Austin, who now had to live on his own and take on more responsibility in his life. It was something he is happy to have experienced before taking that next step.
"It's really helped me a lot on the baseball front, but I think a lot of it is more on the life side of things," said Austin. "Figuring out, maneuvering, and living on your own, doing your own laundry and doing your own chores around the dorms."
His time at Vauxhall resulted in the scholarship offer from William Woods, as his coach helped get him recruited last Fall.
"William Woods reached out to me through coach [Les McTavish]," said Austin. "They gave me an offer I really couldn't refuse, and the rest is history."
"The most important part for me was the schooling and William Woods has a really high reputation down there, so it was an easy decision."
Austin is currently prepping for his last season at Vauxhall which is set to get started in March. After the season ends, he will make the 40-minute drive to Brooks to pitch for the Bombers over the summer. He will then make the trip to Missouri to get his college career started.
While being away from his family right now is manageable, Vauxhall is only a five-hour drive away from Fort Saskatchewan, there are some mixed feelings around Austin's family about him making the move to Missouri.
"There is a little bit of nervousness from my parents," said Austin. "Personally, I think I'll be a little more equipped than the regular Canadian kid heading down there because of the Vauxhall experience."
"I don't really think of it as a challenge, I look at it as an opportunity for me. It's mostly just excitement about being ready to take the next step."
Austin plans on studying Kinesiology with a minor in sports physiology.