By Teresa Flores
Special Sports Correspondent
Every young baseball player dreams of becoming a part of a Major League Baseball organization. Northeast’s Head Baseball Coach Austin Knight will now have the opportunity to do just that.
The Eagles’ coach has been offered and accepted a position within the MLB’s Seattle Mariners organization. His resignation will take effect immediately and will be joining a minor league team through the Mariners ball club.
The chance of a lifetime came about from a work connection Knight made with the Mariners’ Director of Player Development Andy McKay. Knight said he played and coached for McKay in the past and considered him as a great friend and someone that he trusts.
“When he [McKay] called me the first time, it was a little surreal. I felt like a five-year-old in t-ball again dreaming that you would wear a professional jersey one day,” Knight said. “He pursued me and thinks that professional baseball would be a place that I would enjoy and thrive in. So it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
Knight said he would not think a professional ball job would be an option for him. “I never thought about having this chance,” he said. “I wasn’t good enough to play professional baseball, and I immediately got into coaching and assumed that I would coach college or high school ball for the rest of my life.”
Knight described his departure from Northeast as bittersweet. “It’s hard to leave because of how much I love this place, how much I have grown to love the people here and how close I have become with our team,” he said. “I thought a lot about it, prayed and sought wise council. Because it is going to be such a great opportunity and good fit, I’m very excited about what’s to come.”
Josh Stewart, Northeast vice president of student and outreach services and former Northeast baseball coach, said despite the short time that Knight has spent on campus he became an integral part of the community. “We are disappointed to see Austin go because he is a great member of our Eagle family and a great man, but we are happy for him to have been a part of Northeast. We will miss him, but we are excited about the future too,” he said.
With only a few more weeks left in the fall semester, Stewart said the coaching position will be opened to applicants and filled as soon as possible. “It’s going to be a quick turnaround, but it will be an official standard college process on a new hire and we will be beginning that process very soon.”
Knight said that he is hopeful about the future of the baseball program. “I am extremely confident that Stewart will bring in someone who will continue the tradition and move us in the right direction and beyond that,” he said.
Knight came to Northeast in Fall 2014 and served as the assistant coach where he helped lead the team, under Stewart’s leadership, to a playoff appearance the following semester.
He inherited the team early on in the 2016 spring semester after Stewart transitioned into his vice president role on campus.
Along with his coaching responsibilities, Knight also took an interest in his players’ lives off the field by offering spiritual guidance through Bible study and helping establish the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) on campus.
The Eagles’ pitcher Julio Guaba, a recruit from the Dominican Republic, said Knight has made a great impact on his life both on and off the field. “He believed and had faith in me being able to accomplish my academic goals while studying in the United States,” the pitcher said.
Being an international student, Guaba said there is a language barrier within the classroom that Coach Knight motivated him to overcome. “Before Coach left, I made sure to thank him for giving me the opportunity to play here [on a scholarship],” he said. “I also promised him to learn more English and bring my grades up in order to get more field play during the season.”
Guaba expressed that the relationship the team formed with Knight in such a short time was important to their progress on the field. “Coach Knight was a livelihood to the team, and we felt great having him as our coach,” he said.
Knight’s connections at Northeast were with more than just his players. Stewart said he had formed a great relationship with the coach. “He’s like my little brother. He’s a great man, and he’s been like that everywhere he’s been whether Texas A&M or Dallas Baptist,” Stewart said. “He has got an infectious personality, and he has that impact wherever he is. It is hard losing him, but we wish him well.”
Knight said this new opportunity would not have been possible without Stewart’s mentorship. “Two and a half years ago, I began to realize how difficult it is to get as an exceptional job as this one. I would’ve never had this chance come up if it were not for Stewart,” he said. “I saw how much trust he put in me to make me the head coach last year when he transitioned into his vice president role on campus and that means the world to me.”
Knight said his gratitude for Stewart and his mentorship was part of why choosing to leave Northeast was difficult. “It is a big part of why the decision was tough for me. I really hope that Stewart knows how much I appreciate him and the Northeast family.”
As for his time here as part of the campus community, Knight had nothing but positive thoughts to share. “I feel like I fell into a big blessing, and I did not deserve it. I got to be a small part of a rich history, not only with the school itself, but with the baseball program,” he said. “I will always have wonderful memories of the last two and a half years at Northeast.”