Austin off to hot start in Mexico
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March 27, 2007 - The first former Rockford RiverHawk to reach Triple-A is off to a hot start in the Mexican League.

Five games into the regular season, Rich Austin is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with one RBI for the Olmecas de Tabasco.

Austin, 29, is at a higher level than any former RiverHawk has since leaving Rockford. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the major-league affiliated minor leagues, classifies the Mexican League as Triple-A ball, though the Mexican teams operate quasi-independently of Major League Baseball. Should Austin draw interest from big-league organizations, any of the 30 MLB teams could buy his contract from Tabasco.

With the recent releases of catcher Kevin Ciarrachi by the Chicago Cubs and pitcher Justin Olson by the Minnesota Twins out of their respective minor-league camps, Austin is the only former RiverHawk currently playing in a MLB-affiliated league.

The Olmecas are off to a 2-3 start in the Mexican League's Southern Division. Austin was 0-for-3 in their last game, Sunday's 7-4 loss to visiting Yucatan.

Austin broke into pro ball six years ago with the Springfield Capitals, who became the RiverHawks a year later. He led the RiverHawks to the 2004 Frontier League pennant. That season, he hit a league-leading .359 with 15 home runs and 77 RBI, all of which were team records at the time.

Austin, who had a brief stint in the Kansas City organization following Rockford’s championship run, spent the last two seasons with the independent Northern League’s Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks – he won another pennant last September – and is coming off a .300 performance in a Mexican winter league.


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