The road to Riverland

Austin grad Mike Tindal took the long road to the Riverland baseball team, but he's found a role with the Blue Devils and coming on strong. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Austin grad Mike Tindal has had his fair share of disappointments in the last year. But with a simple e-mail, his luck turned for the better.

This past fall Tindal was set to play defensive back for the Rochester Community and Technical College football team. He had been recruited to play there by the coaching staff, but was a little skeptical with how his body would hold up after playing seven straight months of baseball.

It wasn’t long before Tindal found himself out of action with a groin pull and he knew he would have a tough time cracking the starting lineup while being sidelined for the first few weeks of the season.

So he made a tough choice.

“I decided to hang up my football cleats because my heart’s always been in baseball and I didn’t want to claw my way through an injury,” Tindal said. “I broke my ankle (playing football) my junior year in high school and it happened so fast. I didn’t want to deal with that again.”

Tindal, who graduated from Austin High School this past spring, immediately made it his goal to play baseball for RCTC. He was lifting weights every day of the week and in the batting cage until it closed just about every night.

By the time the baseball tryouts rolled around, Tindal was feeling pretty good about his chances with the Yellowjackets. He hit a couple of homers and was making some solid plays in the field during a two-day open tryout.

With optimism on his mind, Tindal received another blow when he was told he didn’t make the squad. When he asked for an explanation from the coach, it only got worse.

“He said he had guys above me and that really bugged me because I’ve had to fight for everything since I was young,” Tindal said. “I was really upset and distraught about it, but I think it took me ten minutes after calling my dad before I sent an e-mail to coach Koenigs and I thank God for having that opportunity to come here.”

Koenigs told Tindal he had to get his release from RCTC before he could talk to him and after that he told him the Blue Devils had a spot for him.

Tindal transferred to RCC at semester break and found the team to be very welcoming of him. He said he’s only once taken grief for coming from RCTC from teammate Kyle Young, but there was also that time when his mom wore an RCTC football shirt to a Blue Devil baseball game.

“I was like, come on mom,” he said.

Tindal, who has gained nearly 20 pounds from lifting since high school, isn’t getting a lot of playing time on a team that has been to the last two NJCAA Division III World Series, but he’s filling a much needed role as a courtesy and pinch runner and defensive replacement.

“If he continues to work hard, he’ll be able to help us out more next year,” RCC head coach Scott Koenigs said. “Our strength is in our outfield, so right now it’s stacked against him to start but he’s been running for our catcher and that’s huge. He does a great job running the bases. You can’t coach speed and he’s probably our third our fourth fastest guy.”

Regardless of playing time, Tindal is embracing his role on RCC. He also loves being part of a winning program.

“I feel like I really fit in and I love this team. Everyone wants to be here and they want to win,” he said. “I love pinch running because that’s where I feel like I’m at my best. With my bat I can slump, but I know when I’m on base I’m fine.”

Tindal has also learned a thing or two from RCC’s sluggers. He’s worked with Kyal Williams and Kyle Young and learned from Koenigs.

In just 14 at-bats, he has seven hits, including a double and four RBIs. He’s also scored seven runs.

Koenigs said he’s a little surprised by the strides that Tindal has made in just a year’s time.

“He has come a long way and I’m confident to put him in the game for defensive purposes,” he said. “He’s already contributed more than I thought he could contribute at this time.”

While Tindal has enjoyed the winning the Blue Devils (16-9 overall) have done so far, he’s really looking forward to the four games against Rochester. The Blue Devils play a doubleheader at RCTC April 26 and they host the Yellowjackets in a doubleheader May 4.

“There’s no love lost with them,” Tindal said. “I don’t want those guys to beat us and they’re not going to.”

Koenigs said that wanting to beat RCTC is nothing new for his squad, which has won nine of 10 since coming back from Florida.

“I don’t think we need any one player to be inspired to beat Rochester,” he said. “They all know that’s a team we don’t want to lose to. Right now we expect to beat everybody and that’s not being cocky, that’s just where we want to be.”

As for the big picture, Tindal doesn’t plan on slowing down his work ethic any time soon. He doesn’t know where he’ll be next year in the lineup, but he hopes that he eventually gets a chance to start at RCC and play at a four-year school.

“I’m trying to take it as far as I can go. I’m not letting anything stop me,” he said.

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