Two-way, Driveline Academy 16 years old
Austin Nelson has always pushed himself. He’s a young high school junior – he doesn’t turn 17 until August – yet suits up for Driveline’s 18u squad. And that’s not new. He’s been playing 18u ball since he was 14 years old.
He has been seeking out ways to improve for a long time. Most recently, that led him to Driveline Academy.
“I was looking for a place where I could get a lot better as a player,” Nelson said. “I decided to do an assessment there, started training, and ever since then I’ve loved it.”
Nelson, a local Kentridge High School two-way player, came to Driveline’s Kent, WA facility last year with a lot of goals in tow.
For one, he wanted to start hitting the ball harder and further. Two, he wanted to start pitching again after mostly being used as a third baseman the past couple years.
Taking on a new type of training regimen at Driveline can be tough enough on a player. Nelson was jumping in head first with both hitting and pitching training. However, his Driveline Academy coach, Steve Baron, knew early on that Nelson had what it would take to succeed.
That consistency has shown up in the results, too.
When Nelson started with Driveline back in October 2022, his peak exit velocity was 87.8 mph. His average bat speed was 64.3 mph. Both of those metrics were right around average for a high school athlete. That didn’t satisfy Nelson.
His coaches got him working on actively training bat speed, monitoring his progress with Blast sensors – something Nelson had never done before.
“I never knew my bat speed or trained that aspect, ever,” he said.
The bat speed training, combined with an intense dedication to Driveline’s High Performance program that has seen Nelson gain 25 pounds of strength in less than a year, has spiked his peak exit velocity almost 10 mph – up to 97.2 now. His average bat speed also increased almost 3 mph, a huge jump in that amount of time. Both of those metrics are well above average at this point.
It has translated to the field this spring as well, with Nelson already launching a pair of home runs for Kentridge.
It’s been a similar story on the mound.
Nelson hadn’t thrown much over the past couple years, but he knew he had it in him to be a successful pitcher. After his first motion capture, his trainers at Driveline felt the same.
So Nelson started double dipping, learning about Blast sensors and pitch design at the same time he’s learning about PULSE arm sleeves, PlyoCare Balls and Trackman data. That’s a lot, but he was dead set on it. And he loves it.
“That was a priority for me this offseason,” Nelson said. “I wanted to get better as a pitcher and throw harder. The first time we tested I was at 78.9 max pitching velocity. In the mo-cap in December I got 79.2, in January I got 81.3, and then in the showcase in February I got 81.8. So I’ve seen my results go up, and that really motivates me.”
Training as a two-way athlete at Driveline requires a lot of focus, Nelson said, but the trainers he works with have an extensive plan and he never feels overworked. For example, if he’s been hitting in the cage for 40 minutes one day, the throwing program that day will be light. It’s the same thing reversed – if he has more high intent throws or a larger amount of throws on a particular day, he’ll hit less.
It’s been a winning formula for Nelson, who is feeling stronger than he ever has on a baseball field.
Baron, himself a first round draft pick in 2009, continues to be impressed with Nelson. He said the work Nelson has done and continues to do has put him in a position to start thinking about college baseball.