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Austin Nelson, a junior at Hastings High School, is the catcher for the Raiders baseball team.

Nelson leads by example

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sports Hastings, 55033
Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

Being a catcher means being a motivator. At least that's how Hastings High School junior Austin Nelson sees it.

Nelson is the catcher for the Raiders baseball team. His is a position of leadership, he said.

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"The catcher is the core of the team, and you really got to take charge out there when you're catching," he said.

Head coach Paul Hartmann also called Nelson a player who leads by example.

"He's not a real vocal kid," Hartmann said. "But he shows a lot of leadership at the plate.

"All of our guys can learn from his competitive nature." Nelson has been playing baseball since he was 4 or 5 years old. Well, T-ball, anyway. His dad taught him how to play.

"We'd always play in the backyard, and he really got me into baseball," Nelson said.

He joined the Raiders as a freshman and plans to stick with the team next year.

While Nelson doesn't have many runs to his name, he's got the best batting average (.346), best slugging percentage (.462) and best on-base average (.469) on the team (as of April 28).

"Hitting, a lot of times, comes down to who wants to battle," Hartmann said.

And Nelson battles, both as a catcher and as a batter, Hartmann said.

No matter who's on the mound, Nelson is a batter who won't back down, Hartmann said.

"He does a very good job of going the other way," Hartmann said.

Nelson is also good at following fastballs and curveballs and is working on following the inside corner pitches as well.

Outside of school and sports, his interests are similar to that of many teenagers - relaxing, hanging out with his friends and watching movies. What kind of movies?

"Anything good," he said.

He also spends a lot of time working out at the YMCA.

Nelson didn't have any particular aspirations to be a baseball catcher. He just gave it a try.

"I've really liked it ever since," he said.

That doesn't mean he hasn't wanted to play other positions.

"Baseball, it's a game where any position is fun," he said. "But catcher is where I'm at right now and I love doing it."

The Raiders haven't had an encouraging start to the season, but the team is handling their defeats well, Nelson said.

"Every game we're getting better," he said.

They keep practicing and try to stay positive, and Nelson hopes that will turn into wins.

"We just need to toughen up and get some wins," he said.

His goal for this season is straightforward.

"To get out of this losing streak, which I know will happen," Nelson said.

The numbers don't fully represent the team's ability, he added.

"We're a lot better than our (1-10) record shows," he said.

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