‘Wow, this is real.’ Mercer alum and Macon native Austin Cox makes his MLB debut

Macon native and former Mercer baseball standout Austin Cox made his debut in the majors Thursday, pitching two scoreless innings with the Kansas City Royals and striking out a batter.

“It was an honor to be out there. I will be honest, I couldn’t feel my legs at first,” Cox told Bally Sports Kansas City after the game. “I stood there for a second and just kind of took it in, like… wow, this is real.”

Cox threw 18 pitches over his two innings of work, fanning Anthony Santander of the Baltimore Orioles in the top of the seventh inning for his first career strikeout. He walked one batter but didn’t allow any hits, making for a strong debut against an Orioles team that boasts strong young hitters like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson.

“It took a minute to be thankful, thankful to my parents, my wife… I’m so grateful for everything they’ve given up and sacrificed for me to get to this level,” Cox told Bally. “After that I focused on the next inning and started checking off the boxes that I go through every inning no matter what.”

Hometown talent

Mercer sophomore Austin Cox got the win Wednesday in the Southern Conference Tournament.
Mercer sophomore Austin Cox got the win Wednesday in the Southern Conference Tournament.

Cox’s path to the majors started in Macon when he was a star at First Presbyterian Day high school, finishing his preps career with a 2.19 ERA and 169 strikeouts. He graduated from FPD in 2015 before pitching for three seasons at Mercer from 2016 to 2018.

Cox earned his first win in his freshman season but really kicked into high gear in his 2017 sophomore effort, striking out 10 batters in a game twice and striking out 12.04 batters per nine innings across the year.

His 2018 season saw him post his best ERA at 4.52 while pitching the most innings on the Mercer team. He ranked ninth nationally in strikeouts per nine innings that year, according to Mercer Athletics.

One of his best career performances came in that season’s Southern Conference tournament, where he struck out 10 over six innings against VMI to secure a postseason win.

Cox’s 2018 season would get him drafted, as the Kansas City Royals made him a fifth-round pick that summer. Cox struggled some in the minors, but transitioned into a bullpen arm for the Royals and started 2023 off strong at Triple-A.

The Royals gave Cox the call to come to the big leagues Wednesday.