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Freshman Feature: Virginia Native Carries Childhood Dream to Cornell

Left-handed pitcher Austin Arnold went to high school at James River High in Midlothian, which is about a half hour away from Richmond. According to Arnold, the baseball culture there was huge. “Central Virginia is a huge baseball place,” Arnold said. “[In fact], my part of Virginia put up more Division I athletes than any other part of the state. My high school had a winning culture at all times.” While his tenure didn’t yield any state championships, the school certainly has a history: they won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008, and they went to the semi-finals in 2009. And just last year, fellow James River alum Nathan Kirby was drafted 40th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers.

From a young age, Arnold looked to become a part of this baseball culture. “I started when I was four,” he said, “[as] I got roped into a coach-pitch and then a kid-pitch league, before I was even six. I saw some of the older guys pitching, and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I always envisioned myself as a pitcher. A lot of kids grow up thinking about playing professionally and hitting home runs, but for me I always wanted to be a pitcher and throw a perfect game.”

Seeing that he enjoyed playing catch, his grandfather encouraged the young southpaw to take advantage of his handedness and pursue baseball. He, along with his father, was a major influence in his growth as a player and person; Arnold said, “They always pushed me to work harder and be the best that I can.”

These dreams pushed him through two major setbacks: an elbow injury in eighth grade that took him off the mound for 14 months, and an appendectomy during junior year that caused some colleges to drop Arnold off their recruiting list. “I missed over a full year,” he said, referring to his elbow, “and I wanted to ease back into it, so I had to play little league because I couldn’t play with my travel team.” With encouragement from his father to keep pushing harder and to be the best player he could be, Arnold continued to look for offers to play college ball. “Keep working every single day,” Arnold’s father told him. “If you fall off the horse, then get right back up.”

Even though baseball was his dream, getting a top-tier education was also a priority as well. Although Cornell started recruiting him at a late stage, and his appendectomy certainly set him back, the recruiting staff thought they found someone special. “During my senior year, we had a big showcase and my high school coach called Coach [Scott] Marsh at Cornell and some other high academic schools,” Arnold said. “They got some looks, and it ended up working out. I came up here [Ithaca] for a visit–loved the school, loved the atmosphere, and I decided to commit on Christmas Eve of my senior year.”

Now that he’s on campus, Arnold loves the experience as he balances both academics and baseball. “Now that baseball has started, I’m either on the baseball field, or in the classroom, or studying,” he said of his spring semester. The workload will only increase as we head into the baseball season, but after all of the obstacles he’s overcome just to get here, he’s certainly up to the challenge.

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