In 2013, Meadows graduated from Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia with a commitment to Clemson on a baseball scholarship.
Austin also played football, with a skill for punting that he picked up from his dad, who played football and baseball at Morehead State. Austin also played outside linebacker and running back. His mother, Staci, is also responsible for some of Meadows' athletic gifts—she played fast-pitch softball at Georgia Southern and Georgia State.
One of Meadows' favorite baseball players, the Braves' Freddy Freeman, was also on Team USA when he was Austin’s age. (Austin was also a big fan of Josh Hamilton.)
Austin played for Team USA's 16-Under team during the summer of 2011. He hit a whopping .537 (22-for-41) with nine extra-base hits, including a home run, and rolled up a 1.446 OPS in eight tournament games.
But his biggest contribution to the team was that he became a run-producing machine. Meadows set a new tournament record by driving in 28 runs during Team USA's 7-1 mark during the 10-day competition, which included a tournament record-tying seven RBIs in a single game during the tournament-opening 21-11 win over Australia.
In addition, he led the team with six stolen bases in nine attempts and 36 total bases and tied for the team lead with 16 runs scored.
Austin is a very level-headed, down-to-earth young man. Pressure? Not a problem. His internal drive and competitive nature is impressive. He has a calm demeanor.
Meadows credits his parents with helping him stay grounded, and his father in particular, for motivating me to just keep working hard so I can get to where I want to be."
Kenny Meadows played both baseball and football at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.
Meadows bats and throws lefthanded, but he writes righthanded.
In 2013, the Pirates chose Meadows in the first round, the 9th pick overall in the draft.
And Austin signed with the Pirates, via scout Jerry Jordan, on June 28. Meadows had committed to Clemson, and his mother, Staci, a third grade teacher, has always believed in education first—it was never a question if he'd go to college. But as the scouts continued to show up at their home, and becoming a Top 10 pick became realistic, she changed her mind. And the bonus of $3 million from the Pirates was very impressive.
"This is a golden opportunity. These are not things that you can let slide," said Staci, who played softball on scholarship at Georgia Southern then Georgia State. "You've got to just take this opportunity and go to school later. Once I understood the process, I was a little more lenient on going back to get your education later."
Among high school players in the 2013 draft, Meadows was rated by Baseball America as the "Best Athlete," having the "Best Strike Zone Judgment," as well as being the second-best "Pure Hitter" and "Closest Player to the Majors."
In 2013, Baseball America had Meadows rated as the #1 prospect in the Gulf Coast League. And he was #3 in the Florida State League in 2015, after leading the loop in hits (156) and total bases (207) while ranking third in batting (.306).
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Meadows as the 4th-best prospect in the Pirates' organization. He was at #3 in the winter before 2015 training camps opened. In 2016 he was number 2.
But in the spring of 2017, Austin Meadows was the #1 prospect in the Pirates organization. In 2018, he dropped to #2, behind only RHP Mitch Keller.
October 2015: From high school to the 2013 draft, and to this day, it seems Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier are constantly crossing paths, and their careers are forever intertwined.
"We grew up together at a young age, we played baseball together and we got to go through the process together of what it's like to experience something life-changing," Frazier said. "From there on, we've really seen each other grow as players and grow as human beings as well."
Both Frazier and Meadows were selected in the first round—Frazier, fifth overall to the Indians and Meadows, ninth overall to the Pirates—but that's not all that links the two. The elite prospects are connected because of where they grew up. Frazier attended Loganville High School in Georgia. Just 4.6 miles away, Meadows was playing at Grayson High School.
"It was very, very neat to have them both so close together," said Jed Hixson, Meadows' coach at Grayson High School. "To think that they were both, at different points, touted as the best player in the nation. It's just crazy to think that they were a stone's throw from each other."
The two players also had some important similarities.
"We both play the game the right way, play the game hard," Meadows said. "He's got a great bat and a lot of speed. It's fun watching him compete. He's a great player."
After being drafted into different organizations, in different leagues, the duo could have easily lost touch after the draft. But that is not the case, as Meadows and Frazier stay in touch and work out together four days a week in Johns Creek, Ga. during the offseason. And it's not just the players that are good friends. Their families are close as well.
"My dad and his dad were pretty good friends. They coached together in Little League, and our moms sat together in the stands," Frazier said. "Personally, I think the relationship really started to grow when we got into our senior year and saw what each other was going through doing all the travelling together, the summer ball, the Perfect Game All-American Game, Under Armour. Our parents were together through the whole thing."
"We grew up together basically," Meadows said. "Grew up playing against each other, our parents are good friends, we work out together in the offseason. (William Boor/2015)
November 12, 2015: Meadows was removed from his Arizona Fall League team's roster for "personal reasons," according to a Pirates official.
FIRST MONTH IN THE MAJORS
May 18, 2018: The news became real to Austin when he received a text message from Kimera Bartee. The Pirates' first-base coach told Meadows that the time had come, that he was coming to Pittsburgh to help a first-place team continue to win games. It hit him again when Meadows' mother, Staci, sent him a picture from outside PNC Park. The Pirates had hung a banner of Meadows, wearing his white No. 17 Pirates jersey, between those of Felipe Vazquez and Josh Harrison. The reality of it all set in when he found his locker between Corey Dickerson and Jordy Mercer in the Pirates' clubhouse.
When he stepped into the batter's box in the second inning, he said he felt no nerves. For nearly five years, through all the accolades and injuries dealt his way since the day the Pirates made him a first-round pick, that was the moment Meadows played out in his head.
"I've been dreaming of this day," Meadows said. "It was just anticipation out there. Just being ready to play. Just going out there and being myself."
The Pirates' top outfield prospect was as advertised in his Major League debut. Batting seventh and starting in center field, Meadows went 2-for-4 with a stolen base and launched two flyouts to deep center field in the Pirates' 3-2 loss to the Padres.
"I thought he had a very good debut," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Meadows quickly got a couple firsts out of the way. With two outs in the fourth inning, he smacked his first big league hit, a single to right-center field. The Pirates retrieved the ball, which will go to Meadows' parents. Meadows soaked in the moment at first base with Bartee, then promptly stole second base. "I don't even know if it's hit me yet, honestly," Meadows said. "It's something I'll never forget, for sure." (A Berry - MLB.com - May 18, 2018)
In his Major League debut, Austin launched two fly balls that were knocked down by the wind. On any other night, they might have been home runs. There was no doubt about Meadows' first big league homer, however. The rookie center fielder ripped a two-run shot to center field off Padres righthander Jordan Lyles in the sixth inning of a 8-5 loss at PNC Park.
"I knew I had it, I mean I hit it well," Meadows said. "I knew it was going to go out just by the way it was carrying. Just a lot of emotions running around the bases and hearing the fans cheer. It was a special moment." (Wittner - mlb.com - 5/20/2018)
After a successful first four Major League games under his belt, Austin hasn't looked anxious. Why not? Two words: visualization and confidence.
The visualization took place over the course of years of anticipation. Since being drafted ninth overall in 2013, Meadows has mentally prepared himself for the day he would take the field at PNC Park. It finally came on May 18, 2018, accompanied by a rush of interviews and early ovations, but he'd already played the moment out in his head.
"The visualization's one of the most important things, at least for me," Meadows said. "I've always dreamed of this day and I've always dreamed of myself in the box here putting together good at-bats. That's the main goal."
Meadows' confidence developed in Triple-A. After an uneven start to the season, he found a selectively aggressive approach that worked for him and yielded good results. He went on a tear before his callup, slashing .394/.412/.515 during a seven-game hitting streak. He also talked with Triple-A hitting coach Ryan Long about the importance of projecting that self-assurance.
"If you're struggling, go up there and make people think you're hitting good. That's the biggest thing, the confidence and showing you have the confidence up there," Meadows said. "Hanley Ramirez, you would never know if he was in a slump. You would think the guy's 3-for-3 and he could be 0-for-3. Just the way he goes about his business."
It's not imperative that a player is on a hot streak when the Pirates call him up. But if he is, Hurdle said, the key is keeping him in the lineup. Hurdle has done just that, starting Meadows in center field in each of his first four games.
"I've been a part of experience where players get called up, they're playing really well, then they just don't get an opportunity to play. That's hard," Hurdle said. "Sometimes, when there's a need, you just go grab the guy because you have confidence he can figure it out.
"His perspective is probably the most important. If he felt more confident walking in the door because of the surge, so be it. He hasn't backed off since he's been here." (Berry - mlb.com - 5/22/2018)
July 2019: Meadows represented the Rays in the All-Star Game.
When Pittsburgh drafted Austin in 2013, many expected the outfielder to eventually become the Pirates' next superstar. While his baseball journey has taken many twists, turns and a jump to the American League, Meadows persevered and this week is soaking up every bit of his first MLB All-Star experience.
At 18 years old, Meadows had all the tools out of Grayson High School in Georgia. He could play defense, had a strong arm, had good speed, and he could really, really hit. He had all the ingredients to be a five-tool player.
In his first full season in 2014, Meadows lived up to the expectations. He was just 19 years old, but professional baseball didn’t seem to faze him. Meadows slashed .317/.394/.488 that season, but a left hamstring issue limited him to just 45 games.
Behind a smooth, easy left-handed swing, Meadows continued to impress and ascend through the Pirates’ organization. In 2017, at just 21 years old, Meadows made his Triple-A debut. But even with his impressive performance, Meadows had one knock to him: injuries.
During his time in the Minor Leagues, Meadows suffered multiple hamstring injuries, an orbital fracture in his right eye and an oblique injury that ultimately ended his 2017 campaign. Going through all the injuries really began to wear on Meadows. “It was hard,” Meadows said. “There are definitely doubts that come to your mind. Am I ever going to get healthy again? Just all those things.”
“For me, the health thing was a challenge,” Meadows said. “But for me, always being a top prospect, I think the hardest thing was not paying attention to social media and fans and all these things. When you’re at the top and you’re a top prospect at the time, you’re going to get talked about all the time, and for me, it was tough not to pay attention to people talking and saying I wasn’t performing at a certain level.”
Meadows credits the support of his family and his now-wife, Alexis, for keeping him motivated to continue his journey. He also employed a new trainer in hopes to change his regimen in order to stay on the field. In 2018, Meadows made his Major League debut with the Pirates and proceeded to hit. 403 with four home runs, en route to winning the National League Rookie of the Month Award in May 2018.
But even with the early success at the plate, Meadows was phased out by a crowded Pirates outfield. Just two months later, Meadows was traded to the Rays along with Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz for Chris Archer.
“I was shocked,” Meadows said, when finding out he had been traded. “I had no idea what was happening beforehand, and I wasn’t told anything about being traded. There were some rumors, but there weren’t any certain facts of what was going to happen.”
After the initial shock, however, Meadows realized that this could be the fresh start that he needed. He was still going to be considered a good, young player, but he didn’t have to carry the burden of the high expectations that he had in Pittsburgh. He could just go out and play.
Meadows didn’t waste much time making a good impression in the Tampa Bay organization, hitting 10 home runs in just 27 games with Triple-A Durham. But the sigh of relief came when Rays manager Kevin Cash called Meadows early in the 2018 offseason and told him that he would enter Spring Training 2019 with the upper hand of being the everyday right fielder.
“As a kid, you dream of being a big leaguer, but to be in the everyday lineup and helping your team win is what you strive for,” Meadows said. “So Cash being able to call me and tell me what was going on, it kind of helped my confidence and kind of helped me realize that I was going to be a part of this team and I will hopefully help this team win for a long time to come.”
Meadows has certainly done his fair share to help the Rays win up to the 2019 All-Star break. He jumped out a blazing start at the plate. At the end of June 2019, Meadows led the AL with a .354 batting average and had tapped into his power potential, launching a career-high 12 home runs in 39 games.
“He has a lot of natural ability, and I think he’s just obsessed,” Tyler Glasnow said. “Just really takes it seriously, and he’s obsessed with his craft, and he’ll do whatever he has to do to be good. He’s always been really good. At every level, he’s been good. The last couple of years I know he battled injuries and stuff, but it’s really good to see him be healthy for quite a long time, so it’s been really awesome.” (Toribio - mlb.com - 7/8/2019)
Kenny Meadows sat in his Georgia home and made a last-minute decision to take a trip up to Baltimore. He was merely looking to catch another one of his son Austin’s games and enjoy some father-son bonding. During late August 2019 baseball, those chances arise only so frequently.
What he ended up witnessing was probably more than he could have expected: his son’s first career grand slam, and a 7-1 Rays win over the Orioles at Camden Yards. "For him to witness it, for me to do it while he was here, it was pretty special,” Austin Meadows said. “After I hit it, I was like, ‘That’s a grand slam.'”
Meadows's 23rd homer of the year was his third in six games at Camden Yards, which tied Yankee Stadium atop his list of away ballparks. Zooming out, that overall number sits where it does after Meadows entered the 2019 season as a self-described contact guy with only six career homers to his name and unsure of his spot on the roster. (Silver - mlb.com - 8/23/19)
Dec 23, 2019: Austin Meadows enjoyed a successful first full season with the Rays in 2019. The outfielder made the All-Star team for the first time, slugged 33 home runs and experienced his first postseason. But before Meadows tries to add to his impressive 2019 campaign, the All-Star took time to chat with MLB.com about his favorite holiday traditions, his favorite gift and his favorite Christmas movie.
MLB.com: Growing up, what was your favorite holiday tradition?
Meadows: Every year, we go to church. We have a pretty big family, so about 25-30 people go to church on Christmas Eve. Then we usually go to the local Waffle House or IHOP as a family and kind of just spend time together. Obviously you’ll go home and spend Christmas the next day. It’s always good to spend time with family, especially around the holidays. That tradition is really special, because that’s something we’ve always done ever since we were little.
MLB.com: What did you usually do on Christmas Day?
Meadows: Obviously now that I’m married, we’re not at home with my parents anymore. But when I was living with my parents, we would get up super early -- around 7 or 8. My grandparents from my mom and my dad’s side would come over and then me and my brother [Parker Meadows] would go into the room. We would usually sleep in my mom’s bed the night before and we would read Christmas books. I’m not saying we do that now, we’ve kind of outgrown that, but we used to read all that stuff, and then we would wake up in the morning and spend time with family and open the presents.
My mom would wrap the presents and they would all have numbers from 1-6, and that’s the order that we would open them in. The small gifts would be first and then our big gifts would be last. It was just basically open the presents and then basically play with those presents all day around the house.
MLB.com: What was your favorite gift?
Meadows: I got a truck for Christmas a while ago, probably my freshman year of high school. I was probably 14 or 15 years old. It was something along the lines where my mom hid a key in one of the presents. It was like a fake truck, like a little truck, and I was like, "Oh, that’s interesting." And it came with a set of keys and then I went outside and there was a truck up in the driveway. That was a pretty big deal for me. My mom and dad always did a good job of giving us pretty big gifts. That was a pretty special one.
MLB.com: What kind of truck was it?
Meadows: It was a 2008 Dodge RAM. It was all black and I had that all throughout high school.
MLB.com: When your family talks to you about your first full season in the big leagues, what do you think those conversations are going to be like?
Meadows: We talk about it all the time, especially me and my dad. Just kind of reminisce about where I’m at today and kind of what I’ve been through to get here with the injuries and the long stints in the Minor Leagues. But just appreciating the success that I had in my first full season and the things that I learned. We’ve definitely talked about it a lot, and my dad is very emotionally involved in it. My parents, both of them, they’re my biggest supporters and we enjoy talking about that stuff. The offseason is more about spending time with them and being regular people, but yeah, we definitely mention that stuff a lot.
MLB.com: All right. Let’s get to the good ones. Which one of your teammates do you think would give the best Christmas gift?
Meadows: I think Blake [Snell] would do a really good job. I think Blake has a good taste in like shoes and that kind of stuff. And he has the most money. Charlie [Morton], too.
MLB.com: Who would give the worst gift?
Meadows: Probably me. No, I would say the pitchers and position players are so different. They just worry about pitching and we just worry about hitting and stuff like that. Let’s just say one of the pitchers. I don’t even know who.
MLB.com: Favorite Christmas movie? Meadows: "A Christmas Story." It’s been that ever since I was a little kid. There are a bunch of good ones.
MLB.com: Last one. Do you prefer a fake or a real Christmas tree?
Meadows: If I had to choose, it would be a real tree. But we’ve always had a fake tree because it’s super easy. We just put it in the basement, take the dust off of it, turn the lights on, and all you have to do is put the ornaments on it and that’s it.(J Toribio - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2019)
Brandon Lowe and Austin were sitting inside the Rays' clubhouse on February 23, 2020, when Lowe got a call from his wife, Madison, that everyone involved will not forget.
“Madison called me and said, ‘Hey, I think our neighborhood is on fire,'” Lowe recalled. “I looked at Austin and said, ‘Dude, our neighborhood is on fire?’ and I think right after that, he called [his wife] Alexis and everything kind of sped up from there.”
The shared 2020 Spring Training home of Lowe and Meadows was in the danger zone of a nearly 220-acre brush fire that caused serious damage in the Rotonda West area and Charlotte County. Law enforcement is still trying to gauge just how much destruction was caused by the brush fire.
“Driving down there, it was just a massive cloud,” Meadows said. “I think it was 220 acres. Just taking everything out in its path. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was unbelievable.”
Meadows was scheduled to lead off and play left field for the Rays, but he was scratched due to a personal matter. Since the news was so close to game time, Meadows and Lowe didn’t have much of an opportunity to tell anyone that they needed to go attend to a family emergency. They weren’t thinking about baseball. They were only thinking about finding their loved ones and their two pets.
Both Lowe and Meadows took off and directed their wives to meet up in a location that was safe from the fire. The ride to the house felt longer than usual, Lowe said, and as they got closer, they realized that the street leading up to the house was closed off. Upon getting the call, Lowe said he sprinted toward his truck.
“I felt like I was in NASCAR,” Lowe said. “Last thing we heard was we can’t get out, there’s smoke everywhere and I was terrified what might actually happen.”
Lowe said he has experienced an earthquake, a tornado and a hurricane, but nothing scared him quite like the speed of the brush fire. Brandon and Madison were able to stay with Hunter Renfroe, while Austin and Alexis spent the night with Oliver Drake and his family.
Both Lowe and Meadows were back in the lineup the next day in Sarasota against the Orioles, and they don’t expect to miss any time. They’re still unsure about their living arrangement for the rest of 2020 spring; they haven't returned to their homes yet, though they've been cleared for entry.
“Thankfully, we had firefighters from five or six different counties come in and they did an unreal job keeping it contained,” Lowe said. “Thankfully, everyone was safe.” (Toribio - mlb.com - 2/24/2020)
- June 2013: The Pirates drafted Austin in the first round, out of Grayson High School in Loganville, GA.
- July 31, 2018: The Pirates obtained RHP Chris Archer from the Rays for Meadows, RHP Tyler Glasnow, and a PTBNL.
|Birth City:||Atlanta, GA|
|Draft:||Pirates #1 - 2013 - Out of high school (GA)|
Meadows has impressive lefthanded power to all fields. He is continuing to get comfortable turning on pitches and learning when it is wise to sell out for power. Meadows also shows a good eye at the plate, rarely chasing pitches out of the strike zone and is willing to take a walk. He has a smooth lefthanded stroke, spraying line drives all over the yard, so will hit for a good average, too. Scouts say he has a 60 hit tool. And he also has 60 power on the 20-80 scouting scale
He gets comparisons to Reds right fielder Jay Bruce as a lefthanded hitter with power and athleticism. But Austin is a better pure hitter than Bruce. Evaluators love Meadows’ quiet hands, his simple, yet advanced approach and lefthanded swing. He stands balanced at the plate and has an advanced understanding of the strike zone. His biggest weakness right now is his inability to hit lefthanders. (Spring, 2018)
Meadows’ lefthanded swing is smooth and natural, and he’s comfortable and effective against lefthanders and righthanders. (Spring, 2019)
Austin consistently makes hard contact, driving the ball with authority. He has a quick bat and excellent balance.. He uses his hands really well. He can hit the ball the other way. He repeats his easy, fluid swing and hits the ball all over the yard.
He has a flat bat path that doesn't generate much loft, but he's strong and has the bat speed and leverage that projects above-average power. He has impressive bat-to-ball skills.
He is a pure hitter. With his sweet line-drive swing he barrels up 90-plus mph fastballs and hits breaking balls, too. Meadows understands what pitches he can handle and rarely gives away an at-bat.
Meadows has a mature hitting approach. He is a patient hitter with solid strike-zone knowledge, who draws a lot of walks. The Pirates see Meadows as a middle-of-the-order hitter, but scouts for other organizations see him as having the on-base skills to hit leadoff with an approach that emphasizes contact over power.
2014 Season: Austin missed most of the first half of the season with a pulled hammy, but when he joined the West Virginia Power in July, he showed no signs of rust, as he kept his batting average over .300 for the duration of his stay at West Virginia, and he went hitless in back-to-back games only once.
- May 2018: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Meadows is just the fifth player to debut in the expansion era (since 1961) and hit .400 with at least 4 home runs in his first 40 at-bats. The other four were Albert Pujols, Jeff Francoeur, Brian Giles and Yasiel Puig.
- As of the start of the 2020 season, Austin's career Major League stats were: .290 batting average, 39 home runs with 106 RBI in 708 at-bats.
Austin has a 55 or 60 arm (above average) that plays part-time in right field. And he has center field skills with a 60 grade for his overall fielding.
He gets excellent jumps takes good routes, displaying outstanding instincts. (Spring, 2017)
Meadows is a high level athlete. And he looks like one the minute you see him, whether it is on the field or getting off the bus to go in the clubhouse.
He's a quiet leader with quiet confidence. He is sure of himself but doesn't feel any big need to talk at length about himself. He lets his play do the talking.
Austin is an impressively instinctual center fielder.
- Meadows has a strong arm. It is a 60 grade on the 20-80, allowing him to play right field if he's on a team with a better center fielder.
Austin is an above-average runner. He runs the 60-yard-dash in 6.3 seconds. So he runs fast for his size—worth a plus 60 grade.
Meadows has the raw speed to become a top-flight baserunner, though he still needs to improve his leads and jumps on balls off the bat while running the bases.
March 30-July 12, 2014: Meadows was on the D.L. with a severely pulled hamstring. He was sidelined much of the year.
- During the winter before 2015 spring training, Austin made weekly visits to a chiropractor.
"Getting my hips aligned helped my legs," he said. "I think everything I did this winter and during Spring Training prepared me for a good year."
March 8-late April 2016: Meadows sustained an orbital fracture to his right eye when he was struck in the face by a ball while playing catch at the club's Pirate City training complex. The ball deflected off of a teammates glove.
Just over a week later, he had surgery to repair damage.
July 1-August 6, 2016: Austin was on the D.L. with a right oblique strain and hamstring injuries.
June 22-August 15, 2017: Meadows was on the DL with a strained left hamstring. (The 2017 season was the third different season where hamstring injuries have hamstrung him.)
September 1, 2017: Austin was on the DL with an oblique strain.
- April 21-May 10, 2019: Austin was on the IL with right thumb sprain.