By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
NEW ORLEANS, LA. – Austin Nola is the national honoree for the 37th Louisiana American Italian Sports Hall of Fame Gala for this year’s event on Saturday at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans.
Born in Baton Rouge, La., Nola took his talents to NCAA Division I powerhouse Louisiana State University after playing for the Catholic High School baseball program, where he was drafted out of high school by the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and opted not to sign.
At LSU, head coach Paul Mainieri moved Nola to shortstop and D.J. LeMahieu to second base during their 2009 national championship season. Nola batted .240 with 18 RBI and three home runs in his freshman season of 2009 and helped LSU win the national championship in Omaha, batting .250 and hitting one home run during the course of the College World Series.
Nola was drafted again in the fifth round of the 2011 Major League Amateur Draft following his junior season, but chose to stay at LSU for his senior year. In the 2012 season with LSU, Nola hit .299 with four home runs and 43 RBI playing in 64 games of his final collegiate season before being selected by the Miami Marlins in the fifth round of the 2012 Major League Amateur Draft.
A few years into his minor league career in the Miami Marlins organization, Nola returned to Louisiana as a professional playing with the New Orleans Zephyrs at the Triple-A level. Nola was moved up to Triple-A in June of the 2015 season and played in 61 games after being called up from Jacksonville at the start of the season, batting .280 with 18 RBI.
As a promotion, the Zephyrs had jerseys that said ‘NOLA,’ a local abbreviation for New Orleans, on the front, so Nola had the perks of seeing his name on both the front and back of the Zephyrs uniform that season. Nola returned to the Zephyrs in 2016, serving as the starting shortstop then playing at third base and second during the season. Nola batted .261 in the regular season with six home runs and 44 runs batted in 372 at bats with the Zephyrs.
Nola has progressed over his long journey to the Major Leagues, transitioning to becoming a full time catcher. Nola made his Major League debut on June 16, 2019 with the Seattle Mariners after being signed to a minor league contract during the offseason. He finished the 2019 season with a .269 batting average, including 10 home runs and 31 RBI in 267 at-bats.
After Tom Murphy broke a metatarsal bone in his left foot prior to opening day, Nola was chosen as the Mariners’ starting catcher for the 2020 season, which began on July 24, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 29 games with the Mariners in 2020, Nola batted .306 with five home runs and 19 RBI before being traded to the San Diego Padres on August 30. The Padres received pitchers Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams in exchange for the Mariners to acquire Ty France, Taylor Trammell, Andres Munoz and Luis Torrens as part of the package deal.
Nola played against his brother Aaron in the National League Championship Series this past season. Last month, Nola signed a one year deal worth $2.35 million with the Padres to avoid salary arbitration.