The pitch was high and inside and Austin Buysse pulled his bat close to him and grimaced as Cody Mather’s high and tight fastball smacked against the butt of Buysse’s bat.
It didn’t hit him, but instead went down as a loud strike.
This was reality, batter against pitcher, rival against rival.
Mather and his Milroy Irish won this battle over Buysse and his Minneota Mudhens Friday night, 9-1.
Buysse got one hit in four attempts, made some nice plays at this base and a couple of times took wild stab at a hot-hit ball he didn’t get.
Austin Buysse was back, playing the game he loves, enjoying the rigors, ups and downs of amateur baseball.
But just a few days earlier, a long way from home, his life changed forever during a quick moment of decision, a “one-in-a-lifetime” event that made an instant celebrity of the 6-5 Minneota graduate.
Since the time he made a one-handed leaping, bending catch of a home run in the outfield stands at the College World Series in Omaha, while balancing a beer in his other hand, then guzzling it on camera, his world has never been the same.
“I never thought it would blow up like this,” said Buysse. He began getting inundated with messages on his cellphone, phone calls and it seemed as though in no time, everyone knew about that one moment in his life.
Fact is, due to television coverage and wide-spread U-Tube coverage, Buysse became an instant celebrity.
At last count, the number of “hits” on the event were between five and six million. “There were a lot of social media,” he said. While being floored by the attention, Buysse labeled it, “One of the best days of my life.”
He said, “It’s been a lot of fun.”
But like all great moments, it had to come to and end and just a couple days later Buysse and his friends Tyson Sonnenburg and Zach Nuy were home after watching what Buysse called, “Great games,” at the world series. Texas Tech and Arkansas were playing when the home run sailed off the field and into the outstretched hand of Buysse.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t have caught it if I wasn’t 6-5,” he said. “I just can’t believe it happened,” he said.
The day after getting home he was umpiring a Junior American Legion doubleheader in Minneota along with his Mudhen teammate Danny Hennen. As he tried to return to his normal life, he found the event just wouldn’t die. It simply had a life of its own. “I can’t believe how many people said they saw it,” Buysse said.
Even when the announcer gave the starting lineups at the Irish Yard in Milroy Friday, he introduced Buysse as, Austin “Guzzler” Buysse.
By this time everyone knew exactly what he was talking about.
Buysse got requests for interviews from the Argus-Leader in Sioux Falls, his college-town newspaper in Mitchell, SD and of-course, from Q-92 radio personality Paul Raymo of Madison/Dawson.
Sonnenburg, who was seen on the view getting out of the way from the ball that came crashing in was taking a lot of good-natured kidding about “bailing” out. His answer, “I was just trying to get out of the way so Austin could catch it.” Yet, he too was enamored with the catch Buysse made.
“It was a great catch,” Sonnenburg said.
Nuy, who was right behind Buysse, also tried to catch the ball. “I couldn’t get it but Austin made a great catch,” said Nuy. He was quick to break out with a thunderous ovation and slap on the back for Buysse — and was happy to be part of the special moment.
“This was the first time (at the College World Series),” said Buysse — and likely a moment he will never forget.
But now it’s time to get back to the realities of life, to play the game, to join teammates in battles against their opponents.
Austin Buysse is home — but he left part of himself in that outfield stand in Omaha. And he’ll never be the same.