CARY, N.C. –- Perspective. It’s all about perspective.
Colorado Mesa outfielder Austin Kaiser leads all Division II hitters with a super-slick .495 batting average and 105 hits going into the DII World Series. Those are the kind of stats that can be tracked, and so is a 3.81 GPA that’s every bit as impressive.
Kaiser would seem to have it all from every outward appearance. Consider Kaiser’s backstory, however, and it’s clear that he’s got a heck of a lot more than just athletic ability and intelligence.It was just a little more than 14 months ago that a fire burned the house near campus in which he had been living to the ground, a complete and total and utter loss. Nearby construction caused gas to leak into a sewer system, and a neighbor’s house almost literally exploded on March 19, 2013.
The fire spread to the home shared by Kaiser and some friends, and while he at work at the time, he got there in time to watch the whole thing burn to the ground. He had nothing left but his laptop computer, a Bible and the clothes on his back.
“It was pretty much any emotion you could think of,” Kaiser began, trying to explain that day. “Initially, you’re kind of just in shock. You never think that’s going to happen to you, so it was like, ‘What do I do? Where do I go?’”
Kaiser’s Mavericks teammates practiced that day, but he had no gear … not so much as a glove. His car had been towed away to allow easier access to fight the blaze. He felt just like a “lost puppy, wondering.”
As heartbreaking as the fire might have been, the support shown by those around him was a bright and shining dawn that followed the darkest of nights.
“It was honestly one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever been a part of, to be on the receiving end of it in a tragedy like that,” Kaiser added. “It was unbelievable, and it kind of masked the overall effect of it for a very long time. It was nothing but, ‘How can I help you?’ every single day.”
There was so much assistance, Kaiser couldn’t help but ask what he had done to deserve it all. Why was everybody so intent on giving him a helping hand? Colorado Mesa students were giving him gift cards, when he knew for a fact they couldn’t really afford them.
He had lost virtually everything, and there was no way to get around that fact. What the fire hadn’t consumed, what was left after everything else was gone, was what truly mattered.
Kaiser was humbled by the support of friends and family. What he also had was the faith. Don’t ever underestimate the faith of a young man like Austin Kaiser when something like that happens.
“It didn’t waver because of this event,” Kaiser said. “I trusted that God is in control, and that He redeemed this situation and this tragedy more than I could even imagine. That was something that was cool for me to see. I was able to see how great He was and how He’s able to work in ways that are inexplicable to me and everybody else.”
A native of Colorado Springs, Kaiser tore into his final season with the Mavericks with an especial ferocity. There was no way, no way at all that he was going to allow the fire to impact his game or his studies.
He hasn’t been drafted into pro baseball … yet. With a season like the one he’s enjoyed, however, Kaiser has drawn all kinds of interest from scouts and would likely have the chance to continue his playing career if he chooses to do so.
If not, his plan is already in place. He graduated from Colorado Mesa May 17 with a degree in exercise science. Kaiser, at some point down the road, sees himself as a college athletic director and he worked toward that goal with the same kind intensity in the classroom as he had on the playing field.
“Ultimately, that’s what’s important,” Kaiser said. “It’s called collegiate athletics for a reason. It’s not professional athletics. I’ve always taken my studies very seriously. I have an understanding that baseball is going to end someday. I didn’t want to set myself up in a position that when it did end, I didn’t have anything to do.”
Perspective? Austin Kaiser has all kinds of perspective.