The Atlanta Braves' third-baseman is a lifelong hunter and new co-host of Road Trips on Realtree 365
Austin Riley is just like the rest of us — except he’s a lot better at baseball than probably anyone reading this. Everyone around him saw his natural skills early, including his dad, who coached him from Little League right through high school summer ball. Mississippi State offered him a scholarship, but the Atlanta Braves came with an offer he just could not refuse. That was 2015, and Austin progressed through the Braves minor league system until 2019 when they brought him to the big leagues as starting left fielder.
But even during the minor league years, Realtree’s Tyler Jordan had heard about Austin's exceptional play and started following him on social media. Jordan is a huge Braves fan, and when he saw Austin posting hunting photos, he decided to invite him on a deer hunt at Realtree Farms. Austin didn’t get a deer on that hunt, but the two became true friends in camp.
Austin Riley learned to hunt like most do — through family and friends. “Dad is more of a fisherman,” he said. “But he still loves to join me and family and friends in hunting camp. He really enjoys cooking and will get out on a hunt every now and then. It’s my uncle on my mom’s side who actually got me started hunting. I was maybe 8 or 9 when he set me up in a blind one afternoon. Everything about that hunt was so memorable. It’s amazing how your senses all max out when you see deer coming close enough for a shot. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got my first deer right then and there and have been an avid hunter ever since.”
Austin draws several parallels between sports and hunting.
“The biggest thing is the adrenaline,” he said. “Watching a deer come in, waiting for the right moment, coming to full draw, making the shot, all that is so similar to certain moments in baseball. When you’re at the plate with two outs, down by one, a runner on third, that’s the same feeling. Either situation is hard to beat.”
Practice and Respect
Preparing for a game or a hunt has similarities too.
“I didn’t get started with bowhunting until just a few years ago,” Austin said. “I was pretty much self-taught. It’s funny because I’m so used to being coached on batting, fielding, throwing. It just didn’t happen that way with my bow. I developed a few bad habits that I’m working hard all the time to fix now. I could probably use some coaching!”
Respect is a big deal to Austin as well — both toward all things in sports and with regard to our hunting heritage.
“Whether it is coaches, teammates, fans or even team history, the respect I have for baseball is huge. There’s just so much great history. So much opportunity to do good things for the community and the economy. I feel the same way about hunting. The land, the wildlife, hunting partners. All of these things deserve our respect. We all have to work together to bring youth along and teach them the respectful way to do things. Our hunting future depends on it.”
Of course, patience plays a huge role in sports and hunting.
“When I really started getting serious about bowhunting, and waiting on the right deer, and now waiting on the cameraman’s signal, that’s when I realized that patience was such a huge factor in getting things right. My patience is pretty good, and I really think that comes from baseball and all the preparation and coaching. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for me though! Again, the adrenaline is there, but you can control it. That’s all part of the excitement, balancing that patience with all that adrenaline.”
Of course, Austin Riley is burning up the hitting, home run, and RBI stats with the Braves, even breaking a couple of Braves records for a player his age. He made the move to third base, too, and has really settled in there. With all of this, his time for what he calls his “second season” is very limited. Still, he heads out with the Road Trips crew as often as possible. Keep an eye open for new hunts on Realtree 365.