Dublin Coffman High School baseball coach Tim Saunders has coached dozens of players who have gone on to earn college scholarships and three players who have been selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Dublin Coffman High School baseball coach Tim Saunders has coached dozens of players who have gone on to earn college scholarships and three players who have been selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Those include Doug DeVore (12th round by Arizona in 1999), Bart Hunton (46th round by Cincinnati in 2001) and Brock Hunton (32nd round by Boston in 2002). DeVore had an eight-year professional career that included playing 50 games for the Diamondbacks in 2004.

Yet, Saunders said senior center fielder Austin Cousino is the top all-around player he's worked with during his 24 seasons at Coffman.

"Size-wise, Austin isn't nearly as big as the players like Doug DeVore and Bart Hunton who were drafted, but I'd say Austin's the best player I've ever coached because of his quickness and instinct for the game," Saunders said. "He's just a natural. His swing is effortless and he covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He makes so many things happen for us, with his bat, his base-running and his defense. The only question in most scouts' minds is if he's big enough to play at the (major league) level."

Cousino, who is 5-foot-9 and weighs 165 pounds, said his size has been questioned nearly his entire baseball career, which started with T-ball at the age of 4.

"I've never been the tallest, strongest or biggest player at any level, and I've had travel coaches and other people telling me I'm not big enough most of my life," Cousino said. "But my family and friends have always believed in me, and I've used the negative things that people say as a chip on my shoulder to keep doing well so I can look back and say, 'Hey, look what I've done.' There's plenty of college and Major League Baseball players who are under 6-foot, so I've never had a doubt in my mind that I can do what bigger athletes do."

Cousino also excelled in football, hockey and soccer as a youth, and his family considered moving to Michigan to give him an opportunity to play a higher level of travel hockey before he experienced a breakthrough season in baseball as an eighth grader.

Midway through his freshman season, Cousino advanced from junior varsity to become the Shamrocks' varsity starter in center field.

As a sophomore, he batted .456 with three home runs and was named first-team all-OCC-Central Division and all-district in Division I and second-team all-state.

In the summer of 2009, Cousino earned a starting position in left field on the U.S.A. Baseball 16-and-under National Team, which won the gold medal in the World Youth Championships in Taichung, Taiwan.

He finished second on that squad in hitting with a .545 average and had 16 extra-base hits among the 24 he had in 44 at-bats. He capped off his summer by being named MVP in the World Youth Championships after drawing a walk in the top of the ninth inning and scoring the tying run in Team U.S.A.'s 7-6 win over Cuba in the final.

By the time Cousino returned to Dublin, he was receiving scholarship offers from just about every major Division I college program in the country.

"Competing for my country in Taiwan was easily the greatest experience of my life so far," Cousino said. "Our main goal was to win the gold and bring it back home and it was a great experience jumping in that dog pile after we beat Cuba. I spent the next few months soaking it all in, as I heard from college teams that I didn't think I was good enough to play for in the past."

But just when Cousino felt like he was on top of the baseball world, in the fall of 2009, his left shoulder began to ache every time he threw the ball.

A magnetic resonance imaging test revealed that Cousino had a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and on Dec. 9, 2009, he had it surgically repaired.

After the surgery, he had to keep his left arm in a sling for seven weeks before beginning a slow and painful road to recovery that wiped out all but two games of his junior season.

"It was scary because I had just got all of this attention, and the next thing I knew, I couldn't even raise my left arm over my head to put on a T-shirt," he said. "I wondered if I would ever be the same again and if any college coaches would still want me to play for them."

Cousino was pleasantly surprised to find that none of the college coaches he had been in contact with retracted their offers, and last July, he made a verbal commitment to accept a scholarship at Kentucky.

Even though his shoulder wasn't healed enough to resume playing in the outfield, he competed for the Midwest Redbirds elite travel team in the fall of 2010, where he caught the attention of several professional scouts by batting over .400 with no strikeouts.

This spring, Cousino finally began playing center field again for the Shamrocks, and through 15 games was leading the team with a .477 average, .558 on-base percentage, .818 slugging percentage, 10 RBI, 19 runs, two home runs, a triple, seven doubles and 15 stolen bases on 15 attempts.

"I definitely appreciate being back out on the field this season more than I used to," he said. "It feels good to help my team win games after sitting there watching them play without me last year. It would be nice to make first-team all-state and all-American, but my biggest goal is to help my team win league, district, regional and state championships."

Several major league scouts have come to watch Cousino play this spring and Saunders said he wouldn't be surprised to see him selected in this year's amateur draft, which will be held June 6-8.

However, even if Cousino gets drafted, that doesn't mean he's automatically going to skip college and sign a professional contract.

"If I were to get drafted and get an offer that I can't pass up, then I'll have a big decision to make," he said. "But if that doesn't work out for me, I know I have a nice place to play and get a degree in Kentucky. My plan is to go to Kentucky, major in business or marketing, and to try to earn my degree in three years in case I get drafted after my junior year. I hope I have the opportunity to play professional baseball someday, but I know that getting a degree is my best bet in having a good career beyond baseball."