Rogers City’s Cook verbally commits to Mid Michigan for baseball

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City senior Austin Cook, seated left, made a verbal commitment to play baseball on Thursday for Mid Michigan College. Cook is pictured with his family, pictured standing from left to right, Shawn Cook, Alexis Cook, Dillon Cook and Ivy Cook. Mid Michigan coach Fred Brown is seated next to Cook.

As Mid Michigan College baseball coach Fred Brown looks for players to fill out his roster, he’s looking for players with determination and grit who aren’t afraid to work hard.

Austin Cook checked off all three boxes.

The Rogers City senior announced a verbal commitment on Thursday to play with the Lakers beginning next season. He’ll be part of a brand-new program and intends to study criminal justice.

Cook is lauded by Brown for his versatility and will likely play either a corner outfield spot or a corner infield spot.

What initially drew Brown’s interest however was Cook’s ability at the plate and the Lakers’ head man is confident Cook will be able to perform well against collegiate pitching.

“His bat is (what was) initially the focus of our primary attention toward him participating in the program,” Brown said. “In the cage during his tryout, we came to the conclusion that his bat is going to be able to handle that and that he will be a good opposite field line drive and situational hitter for us.”

Cook’s path to Mid Michigan began by reaching out to Brown and Brown asking him to come down for a tryout. Brown was able to scout Cook a little bit online and was impressed with what he saw during a tryout.

Cook went down about three weeks ago and spent the whole day working out with Laker players.

“I thought I did pretty well. But I was a little skeptical because (it’s college ball),” Cook said. “But it turned out pretty well.”

In many cases, players are given a one-on-one tryout with members of a school’s coaching staff, but Brown tested Cook right away, wanting to see how he fared against his future teammates. That including spending time in the batting cage and having Cook face some live pitching, where he quickly discovered college pitching relies on location and timing rather than just speed.

“I don’t want to see them in an enclosed comfort zone where they’re just by themselves,” Brown said. “I really like to see them in competition with those around them and to see what they’re going to be going up against at the next level.”

Mid Michigan, which has campuses in Harrison and Mount Pleasant, has increased its commitment to athletics in the last few years and that now includes a baseball team.

Brown, a self-described baseball junkie with a brief stint in playing minor league baseball, was hired to lead the Lakers in May 2018. He coaches a travel team in the Grand Rapids area and said nine of the 15 players on that team have recommitted from other offers to be a part of Mid Michigan’s program.

Before his college career commences, Cook will look to help the Hurons to a successful season on the diamond. Cook will likely serve as his team’s designated hitter and Brown said he or members of his coaching staff are going to try to catch a few Rogers City games this spring.

“(We’re excited for him) to come aboard the program,” Brown said. “I had a good feeling about not only his athletic skills, but his support system and his ability to get through and be independent as a freshman on his own.”