By R. Alan Richardson sports editor
Senior shortstop Austin Rapier has signed on the dotted line to attend Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia and play baseball next year. He was voted as the third best shortstop in 8-AAA a year ago and hopes to improve that ranking this year. Austin praised several past coaches for helping him get to the next level saying, “Coach (Brandon) Patch was my head coach my freshman and sophomore years and Coach (Jerry) McCullough was my coach last year. I would have to say that during my freshman year it was Coach (Doug) Connelly who got me defensively to where I needed to be ready for the college level. We hit it off immediately. He was like a father or big brother to me and stayed on me. That’s what good coaches do so he was on my tail when he needed to be.” Rapier is being recruited as a shortstop or second baseman by the NAIA school and has earned a lot of academic scholarship money as well based on his GPA, ACT, and SAT scores.
College Coaches love to recruit players that have not only a high IQ, but a high IQ in their respective sport that they don’t have to worry about academically or personally. He certainly fits the bill. The 18-year-old said he started playing baseball when he was four years old and started pitching at seven in North Carolina before moving to Covington and later to Madison in the third grade. He commented, “I started playing travel ball in the county with Coach Rob Brown. He’s been a big influence on me. We played on the Monster Baseball Team and played all over Georgia and other out of state tournament as well. Our team made it to the World Series in Panama City Beach, Florida as 13-14 year olds. He’s also coached me some at the middle school and high school levels. I can’t thank him enough for all his help.”
As a freshman, Austin earned a varsity jersey while starting on the JV team. During his sophomore he played both on the JV and varsity squads, but really came on the scene in his junior year as a starting shortstop. This year he is expected to play short, second, and pitch as a senior. When asked what the scholarship meant to him he said, “It’s like you worked all your life for it. You’ve finally achieved your goal and it’s a great feeling. It’s a big relief for sure to know that you got there.” Rapier is undecided about his college major, but is leaning toward a Biblical studies degree to possibly become a pastor, youth pastor, or missionary. He talked about this year’s team, “We lost a lot of seniors, but have a great chance of winning the region. Our major roadblocks will be Jackson County, Hart County, Oconee County, and Jefferson. However, we have some talented underclassmen. They’ll have to be ready for one of the toughest baseball regions in the state.” Austin was quick to praise others important in his baseball pedigree saying, “I’d like to thank my parents (David and Melissa Rapier) for driving me around all over the place and putting up with all these years to support my addiction for the game. My grandfather (Reggie Bond) supported me throughout my entire career since I was four. He would spend four or five hours in his backyard playing whiffle ball and never seemed to get tired of it.”