Washington to honor Doc AustinPublished 8:39pm Thursday, April 18, 2013
For over 25 years the name Fred “Doc” Austin has been synonymous with Pam Pack baseball and after tonight it will remain that way for the rest of eternity as Washington High School will retire the No. 20 jersey worn by the retiring long time team doctor and baseball coach during a ceremony slated to start at 6:30 p.m. before the Pack’s game against Havelock.
“It’s a great honor,” Austin said. “I’ve really enjoyed all my time at Washington High School. It’s been a pleasure to work with the athletes and to help with the athletic program and the sports medicine program.”
A kind, warm-hearted man whose love for healing is only paralleled by his love for baseball, Doc Austin became the assistant baseball coach and team physician in 1985 and has remained a fixture at Washington baseball games since.
Austin was named the Sports Person of the Year by the North Carolina Athletic Trainers Association in 2010 and enshrined in the Washington Walk of Fame in 2003 and is best associated with Pam Pack baseball. However, Austin’s work as the school’s physician extended to all sports, which greater magnified his impact on the community.
A great, humble man who is knowledgeable about seemingly every topic under the sun, Austin’s presence was a comforting one at sporting events not only for the players, but for the parents and coaches as well.
“It seemed to me that Doctor Austin was always able to give out wisdom to these kids as it pertained to sports but also as it applied to life,” said former Washington student and current athletic director and girls basketball coach Allison Jones. “He just always had such a great rapport with the athletes and I know a lot of them keep in touch with him even after they graduate.”
Austin grew up in Charlotte and got his Bachelor of Science degree from Davidson College before getting his medical degree from the University of North Carolina. From there, Austin did post-grad training at the University of Georgia and Harvard before teaching at the University of Louisville.
Austin said the call to join the medical field was one he heard at an early age.
“Ever since I could remember that’s what I’ve wanted to do,” Austin said. “My dad was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor and my great grandfather was a doctor. I was around it and grew up around it. I made rounds with my dad. It was just something that I always wanted to do.”
After teaching at Louisville, Austin went on to start his own practice in Paducah, Kentucky before he was lured to Washington.
“I had some friends here in Washington that talked to me about coming here to practice,” Austin said. “So I came here to visit and I liked it.”
In Washington, Austin worked for what was then-called Pamlico Internal Medicine and quickly ingratiated himself into the local high school sports culture, a trend that carried over from his time in Kentucky.
“I love sports because it’s challenging and I think it’s a very constructive activity for our children and young people to be involved in,” Austin said. “It teaches physical fitness and competition and I’ve always enjoyed it.”
It’s that love for sports that led Austin to dedicate countless hours to young athletes.
“Doctor Austin is probably one of the most selfless individuals I know,” Jones said. “He cares about high school athletics and probably more importantly high school athletes. He likes to be a part of athletes’ lives and likes to watch those individuals grow and mature through athletics. He’s been such an important mentor to our players, and coaches as well.”
Austin’s reputation for his work with Pam Pack athletics extends way beyond Washington High School, something Pam Pack second-year baseball coach Ryan Whitney can attest to.
“I knew Doc from my high school playing days at West Craven and also playing against him in American Legion baseball and when I was coaching at West Craven,” Whitney said. “I knew him as a class act. When I think back to being a player I think of (Austin) as a guy who was a class act that you knew really loved Washington High School.”
Whitney said being able to be the Washington baseball coach on the day the school honors Austin ranks at the top of his baseball resume.
“It’s one of the biggest honors of my baseball career,” Whitney said. “The fact that I’ve had an opportunity to work with him, and as much as anything, the fact that I’ve been able to just have conversations with him and just talk to him is an honor.
“He’s just one of those people that whether you have a 30-second conversation or a 30-minute conversation you can learn something from him. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to know him and call him a friend of mine.”
At 6:30 p.m. today Washington High School will celebrate a man whose dedication to Pam Pack students, athletes and coaches dates back to the Reagan administration, but in true Austin fashion the humble doctor made it a point to thank those thanking him.
“It’s been a great privilege for me to be involved in Washington High School and I would just like to thank the administration, the athletic director and other coaches and students for accepting me,” Austin said. “They always made me feel a part of the team. That was very important to me, it made it lots of fun. It never seemed liked work for me, it was something that I got a lot of enjoyment out of.”
After tonight, Austin’s No. 20 jersey will look out on to the field and over the players the same way he has done for so many years, making sure that he will forever be a part of the team.