“I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to this point” — with the MLB draft in full swing, BYU baseball’s Austin Deming awaits the call of his life
Austin Deming has been mashing baseballs for the majority of 2023.
Now, he’s playing the waiting game.
The BYU baseball standout and WCC Co-Player of the Year honoree is an intriguing prospect for the ongoing MLB draft, hoping to hear his name selected Monday or Tuesday by one of the league’s 30 ball clubs.
The third baseman posted one of the most prolific campaigns in program history as a fifth-year senior in 2023, hitting .418 with 19 home runs and 68 RBI in 41 games. Deming’s .915 slugging percentage was good for second in the nation, with his batting average and 23 doubles each ranking ninth nationally as well to earn conference MVP honors and his second consecutive First Team All-WCC selection.
“Going into this past year, I didn’t even know if the draft was a possibility for me as a fifth-year guy at 23,” Deming told Daily Universe Sports. “I joked with one of my buddies back home that I would need to have a pretty amazing year just to have a chance (to be drafted), and now we laugh about that after this past year.”
Such a stellar season was the riveting final act for a collegiate career that often felt more dramatic than Deming would have liked. He was a serviceable role player in 35 freshman contests for the 2019 WCC regular season champion Cougars, only for his sophomore effort to be derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 NCAA baseball season. When BYU resumed play the following year, Deming found himself in a serious funk, batting a mere .177 and squandering his starting job.
“After the 2021 season, I didn’t play summer ball for the first time in my life,” Deming said. “I had been struggling mentally, and to take that summer off changed that whole mental side of things. It took some time to get back to being myself, but it was huge to figure out what I wanted out of baseball and who I was as a player. Having that little bit of failure really reshaped everything.”
Rejuvenated following his summer sabbatical, Deming charged back in 2022 to retake his spot at third base and become one of BYU’s loudest bats in the lineup, and despite a sudden midseason coaching change which caught the entire team by surprise, his late season surge helped the Cougars catch fire to earn a conference tournament berth, earn himself a First Team All-WCC nod in the process.
The Santa Clara, Utah native knew nothing would be guaranteed following his final year at BYU, and the realization of reality sparked a now-or-never mentality to take the weight right off his shoulders.
“I realized before the 2023 season that it could be my last year playing baseball, so I went out with the intention to just enjoy it,” Deming said. “There were times at BYU where I wasn’t really enjoying it and it felt more like a business, but going out every day knowing it could be my last year really just helped me enjoy it.”
As of Friday morning, Deming had communicated with six MLB organizations concerning the draft. Having experienced a lengthier college career than most blue chip draft prospects, Deming acknowledged that his age may be dampening his stock in some circles, but also sees it as an advantage that could provide himself with additional value.
“With my numbers, I would have hoped to hear from every team by now before the draft,” Deming said. “(My age) won’t hurt me from getting a shot, but it will probably move me a bit later in the draft. I think it’s the only thing that’s working against me.
“It wasn’t a typical five years at BYU, but it can be a bit of a bargaining chip for me to show teams that I stayed here through everything and didn’t just pack up and leave. I hope teams can understand that and see me as a kid they can rely on even though I’m a bit older.”
Along with four of his teammates being picked in last year’s draft, former BYU star Jackson Cluff — selected by the Washington Nationals in 2019’s sixth round — has been a vital resource for Deming as he wades the uncertain pre-draft waters and prepares for a professional career.
“(Cluff) was a really good mentor to me my freshman year in trying to be a good player and person,” Deming said. “He’s the perfect example of that.. having those BYU connections in the baseball world is crucial.”
Deming knew he likely wouldn’t be drafted within the first two rounds Sunday night, and while he’s unsure when exactly his life-changing phone call may come, he’s choosing to live his life as normally as he can over the next two days of the draft while keeping his phone nearby just in case it does ring. There may be some anxiety about the whole process, but much like his senior season on the field, it’s all supposed to be fun.
“With COVID and having a down year (in 2021), I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to this point,” Deming said. “I am 23, but maybe that means I’ll be ready (for the majors) even quicker.”