Lakewood’s Austin Tanner is an athletic triple threat. As a sophomore last year, he was a starting player on the baseball, basketball and football teams, and he credits his father for honing his athletic abilities so he can be one of the best on the field.
The teenager has played all three sports since a youngster in the recreation league and at Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School.
In basketball, he was a forward, and last year, in football, Tanner was a right guard and defensive end, but this year he is practicing in the tight end position. “I’m practicing catching passes and blocking,” he noted.
Tanner said he likes playing both those sports, but baseball is his passion. “I’ve always loved it,” he asserted.
He pitches and plays first third bases for the Leopards. The young man was also the teams go-to pitcher when they needed to get out of a jam, and more often than not, he was able to deliver.
Tanner considers baseball more of a thinking man’s game than the other two sports, which is what he likes about it.
“You have to think in baseball more than in any other sport. Like, if a ball gets hit to you, you’ve got to know what to do with it as soon as it’s hit,” he explained.
“ As the pitcher, I feel like I’m in control of the game,” he pointed out, explaining why pitching is his favorite position.
Though he likes being on defense during the game, his batting improved dramatically this year.
“I’ve been working with David Young (of Sanford Line Drives) and he’s changed my swing so much. He’s helped me out a lot. I have the second highest batting average on the team this year,” Tanner declared.
He admitted he’s knocked one out of the park before, but it was a few years ago during a middle school game. “I haven’t hit one over the fence in high school yet,” he said with a laugh.
“I practice all the time during baseball season. I’m hitting into the net or taking ground balls, and throwing to my little brothers,” he added.
The Leopards won 10 games this season, which was better than the year before, according to Tanner. They lost in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We’ll be better next year,” he said hopefully.
The rising junior was named All-Conference in baseball in both his freshman and sophomore years.
What makes him so good at baseball? “My dad has always worked with me. We would get in the yard and play catch and hit. He’d throw me ground balls. That’s what really makes me as good as I am,” he said.
Tanner was appreciative of the time and effort his dad, Kevin, has put into helping himself and his two brothers, Zachary and Trent, get better in sports. He said his dad works 40-50 hours a week and still finds time to practice with them and help coach their teams.
“He has coached me since I was4 years old, all the way up to eighth grade. He started being an assistant coach at the middle school when I was in the seventh grade. He did that to help me and my brothers. He’s made a big difference in that middle school team,” Tanner asserted.
Not only has his father been a big influence, but his mother, Monica, has been there as well. Plus all four grandparents, Glenn and Eloise Morgan, and Robin and Bobby Brown, have been there to support him at sporting events, too.
“They all live close by and come to all my games,” he said.
Tanner also mentioned his former rec football coach, Eric Beatty, and Norman Starsky, his travel ball coach, as two people who have supported him and helped guide him along the way.
His best memory from this baseball season was Lakewood’s very first game, which was against out-of-county rival Rosewood. “I pitched all eight innings. We had to go into extra innings to beat them, but we won 5 to 4. It was tied up in the seventh. We got them out three up and three down, but they couldn’t get us out,” Tanner recalled with a smile.
His favorite basketball memory was when the Leopards played at Union.
“I had a buzzer-beater. We were ahead and beating them by a lot, but it was memorable for me. It was almost the end of the third quarter and Patrick Rich dished me the ball. I was at the free throw line and I shot it. As soon as the ball went in the buzzer went off.”
The stand-out game for Tanner from last year’s football season wasn’t what you could call a good memory, but it was memorable for him. In fact, he missed the entire fourth quarter of the game.
“It was the last game of last season. We made it to the third round of the state playoffs. I was the right guard and it was near the end of the third quarter. We were running a counter and when I pulled across and hit the dude, he leaned his head down and it went into my face mask. It jarred my neck back and I went out,” Tanner explained.
The teenager was knocked unconscious, and he was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors said he did not have a concussion, and he said there’s been no lasting effects from the hit.
“It did scare me, but I’m still going to play this year,” he insisted.
More than sports
With Tanner playing all three high school sports, he stays after school almost every day for practice. Does he ever get too tired to study? With a laugh, Tanner quickly nods in the affirmative. “You have to deal with it and study anyway. You can’t make a C and live with the parents I have. If you make a C you ain’t getting to play athletics.”
One thing his football coach, James Lewis, has told the team, stuck with Tanner, and he said it applies toward academics, as well.
“You get as much out of life as you put into it. That makes a lot of sense to me, cause in academics if you don’t study you’re not going to pass. In a game, if you don’t practice and try hard, you’re not going to win,” Tanner stated firmly.
During the summer, Tanner works for the Roseboro Parks and Recreation, and in his free time, he likes to hang out with his friends.
His favorite subject is physical education and he got the class award this year. Tanner’s ambition is to graduate from college with a degree in athletic training. Right now, he doesn’t know if he wants to be a trainer or a teacher, so he wants both degrees. “That way I can do which ever I want to. I can be a trainer or a teacher,” he said.
One thing he is sure of, he wants to continue to play baseball in college.