Former Player of the Year to play in Italy
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March 17, 2008 - LOVES PARK, Ill. – The 2004 Frontier League Player of the Year has signed to play the 2008 season in Italy.

Outfielder Rich Austin, who spent 2002-04 with the Rockford RiverHawks, has agreed to play for Fortitudo Bologna of Serie A, the Italian professional league. It’s the second year in a row Austin has played in a foreign league. He spent three weeks early last season with Tabasco of the Triple-A Mexican League and has spent each of the last two offseasons in a Mexican winter league.

Since leaving Rockford, Austin spent 2005-06 and most of the 2007 season with Fargo-Moorhead of the independent Northern League. Last season, Austin was a Northern League all-star and hit a combined .299 with 15 home runs – matching a career high – and 68 RBI between Tabasco and Fargo.

Austin spent his first four professional seasons with the franchise now known as the RiverHawks. He broke into pro ball with the Springfield Capitals in 2001. The franchise moved to Rockford following the season, and Austin was a fixture in the lineup for the team’s first three seasons at Marinelli Field. He hit .359 with 15 homers, 77 RBI and 22 steals in 2004, when the RiverHawks won the pennant. In addition to the top FL award, Austin was named a member of Baseball America magazine’s all-independent leagues all-star first team.

Opening Night is at 7:05 p.m. May 21, when the RiverHawks host River City. The RiverHawks are members of the Frontier League, a 12-team independent professional baseball league that will play its 16th season this summer. Advertising and season-ticket information is available by calling the box office at (815) 885-2255. Most games are broadcast live on WNTA (1330 AM) and the internet. Fans can also visit the RiverHawks online at www.rockfordriverhawks.com.


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