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Interview with National Champion Austin Warner

The Memphis Redbirds are National Champions. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? After being defeated in last year’s finale by the Durham Bulls, the Redbirds did not hesitate on running with the opportunity for a rematch. The final score of the 1-game final was 14-4, a display of the tenaciousness and resilience of the Memphis Redbirds, a team that has seen half of its Opening Day roster promoted to the MLB.

If it’s fun for the fans to observe, imagine just how exciting it was for the players. Actually…you do not have to imagine anymore. Our team at Cardinals MiLB had the honor of interviewing Memphis Redbirds reliever Austin Warner Friday afternoon. For those that are not familiar with the rising star, Warner was signed by the Cardinals from an independent team, the River City Rascals, in July of 2017.

"That was a complete surprise," Warner said. "It was after I pitched a game for the River City Rascals. Our manager had the whole team together and told me in front of everyone. I definitely didn’t see that coming. It was a surreal moment."

Who was the first person he told? "After I got congratulatory hugs from the team I called my dad immediately."

He was assigned to Low A Peoria, then began the 2018 season in High A Palm Beach. He was promoted from there to AA Springfield, pitched in 6 games there, and then was promoted to AAA Memphis.

"It was definitely a surprise!" Austin said of his quick promotion from AA Springfield to AAA Memphis. "But just like any promotion it’s always a good thing. It just takes you a week or so to acclimate to the new teammates, coaches, and environment."

This is something Warner had to do not once, but twice in a fairly short span of time. The Cardinals made a lot of system moves during the 2018 season, mostly promoting players from Memphis to St. Louis as the Cardinals were looking for new energy to help spark the major league club. Not a lot of players stayed in one place for the entire season…except for the minor league postseason. Memphis, Palm Beach, Peoria, GCL, and DSL Blue all made the postseason this year out of the Cardinals’ 9 affiliates. That, to be quite honest, is insane. After DSL, GCL, and Palm Beach saw their seasons come up just short of a championship, that left just Low A Peoria and AAA Memphis left battling for their league’s championship. Memphis came out on top, winning their second straight PCL Championship, their first National Championship, and scoring the most runs by a single team in the event’s 12-year history.

What was it like to be a part of such a great run? "Nothing but fun!" Austin said. "We have a great group of guys that were all focused on winning instead of themselves. A coaching staff with the same mentality never hurts either. Walk off wins in the playoffs make for an exciting time too."

Before our interview concluded, we asked Austin one last question: who has helped you the most in becoming a professional baseball player?

"Obviously my parents," Warner told us. "My dad has played a big part in my baseball career. I’ve been lucky enough to work with countless of great coaches as well."

Austin Warner is truly a class act, and with the last paragraph of this article, we would like to thank him for his time and for giving us such a wonderful opportunity to learn more about his story and life as a Cardinals prospect in 2018. From Memphis to DSL, we wish everyone a great offseason, and we are already counting down the days until Spring Training!