EVERETT — Austin Knight’s favorite Bible verse is Luke 1:37.
“For with God nothing is impossible.”
The hitting coach for the Everett AquaSox is living out that verse this summer in his first season of professional baseball — a career path he never thought would happen.
“It literally never crossed my mind,” Knight said of coaching in pro ball. “I didn’t play pro ball and I just didn’t know many guys that had (coached) both (college and pros). I know there are plenty that have, but I just didn’t know any and so I didn’t think that would ever be an option, so I didn’t really entertain that thought.”
That changed in November when Andy McKay, the Seattle Mariners farm director, plucked Knight from Northeast Texas Community College, where Knight had been the head baseball coach.
McKay spent two decades coaching in the college ranks and coached Knight with the LaCrosse (Wisconsin) Loggers of the Northwoods League in 2009. McKay came away impressed with the then-Dallas Baptist middle infielder who won the collegiate summer league’s Gold Glove at shortstop.
“He’s got the type of personality where he’s so selfless and so giving to the others that he was an easy one to pick up the phone and try to bring into this mix,” said McKay, who took over as Seattle’s farm director prior to the 2016 season.
“It was never about him. It was always about the team and about ‘How can I be a teammate?’ And ‘How can I help other people?’” McKay added. “It was always about somebody else. He was so mature, he was so far ahead of his age in terms of how he communicated with people and is a very principled guy.”
Knight became a two-time All-District performer and two-time Defensive Player of the Year at Billy Ryan High in Denton, Texas, while also lettering in football and basketball. Yet he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue playing in college as he contemplated a career in the ministry.
Dallas Baptist was a school that recently had joined the NCAA Division I ranks in baseball while remaining true to its mission as a leading Christian liberal arts school.
That appealed to Knight, who majored in Biblical Studies and became a Freshman All-American and a four-year starter for the Patriots at shortstop and second base.
“I’m a Christian and honestly that was, if not the biggest part, one of them that drew me to Dallas Baptist — I wanted to be in that kind of environment,” Knight said. “I was just hungry to learn and so that’s the route that I went. I’m still imperfectly trying to follow the Lord now and He’s everything to me.”
Knight was the starting shortstop for the first DBU team to reach the NCAA regionals in 2008. Since then, the Patriots have advanced to the super regionals once and have qualified for the NCAA tournament six of the past seven seasons.
That is no small feat for a small Christian school in a state with more than a dozen D-I programs for elite baseball players to choose from. DBU head coach Dan Heefner credits Knight with helping establish the winning culture at a school remaining true to its vision.
“It’s one thing when you do that as a school, or the coaching staff is doing something, but where you really start to see change is when your players do it, and specifically your best players,” Heefner said. “Austin really led the way in that, and that’s how he changed our program. He was one of our best players for four years and extremely solid spiritually and loves other people. He cares about other people, he wants to help them, he wants to help them grow. That’s probably the biggest impact he made on our program. He passed it on to the guys that he played with and they learned it from him and they keep it going now.”
Undrafted and unsigned after his senior season in 2010, Knight joined Heefner’s staff as an assistant for two seasons before spending two years as a coach at Texas A&M. From there he moved to Northeast Texas Community College where he served as an assistant before being promoted to head coach.
Then McKay came calling.
“(I was) surprised in that I really knew he wanted to be a college coach,” Heefner said. “So it did surprise me that he’s in pro ball from that standpoint, but it’s also not surprising because I think he’s really good, and when you’re really good at something, people notice it.”
Knight never did sign that professional contract as a player, but he’s living proof that that isn’t the only way to make it. Now he’s tasked with teaching rather than performing.
“Like a lot of people in coaching, I’ve just been around a lot of really good people and just tried to implement the things that I learned,” he said. “I’m still trying to do that.”
For the latest AquaSox news, follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.