It might be hard to believe that this was Austin Bulman’s first summer league experience, but, in fact, it was. So an MVP award might seem like an outrageous expectation, but that’s exactly what he achieved in 2021.
Bulman, a first baseman from Rice, had a fantastic summer for the Winchester Royals. In 124 regular season at-bats, he hit .379/.424/.661, with 31 runs scored, 14 doubles, seven home runs, 40 RBIs, 10/24 BB/K, and seven stolen bases without being caught. He finished third in the league in batting average, sixth in OPS, third in slugging percentage, tied for first in total bases (82), tied for second in RBI, tied for fourth in home runs, first in doubles, tied for second in hits, and fifth in runs. He was named MVP of the league and first team All-Valley at first base after the season.
He was named Hitter of the Day three times, and Hitter of the Week on July 12. He had a five game stretch from July 5 to July 10 in which he went 13-22, with 11 runs, five doubles, a home run, and 11 RBIs. From June 5 to June 18 he went eight games in a row with at least one RBI, and through June 23, he had at least one RBI in 11 of 12 games. He had four hits four times, and three hits once. On June 23, he went 4-5, with three runs and a home run at Front Royal, and on July 7, he went 4-5, with two runs, a double, three RBIs, and a walk at Woodstock. Pretty remarkable! He played in one playoff game for the Royals; of course, he went 2-4, with two runs, a home run, three RBIs, and a walk.
Bulman has had an interesting college career thus far, too. In 2018, he played for Division-II Shippensburg, but he received only 18 at-bats all year. In 2019, he moved to Wake Tech College, where he hit .381/.430/.669 in 139 at-bats, with 16 doubles, eight home runs, 34 RBIs, 15/27 BB/K, and 18 stolen bases. He played against a coach that year that had connections with Rice, and Bulman found himself with an opportunity there. In 2020, he went 18-69 at Rice, with two home runs and seven RBIs, but did much more with steady opportunity in 2021, hitting .270/.370/.468 in 141 at-bats, with seven doubles, seven home runs, 25 RBIs, 19/27 BB/K, and four stolen bases. He’s returning to Rice for another season in 2021-22. Oh, and by the way, he does the work in the classroom, too- he was named to the 2021 Conference USA Academic Honor Roll.
Of his summer experience, Bulman said, “The VBL this summer was the first time I actually had the opportunity the play in a college summer league due to summer classes and COVID. I was a little down on myself after my college season this year and the VBL really reminded me why I loved baseball again. Being surrounded by great teammates and coaches allowed me to play the game freely and have fun. The MVP award was just a byproduct of having fun this summer and believing my abilities as a baseball player.”
Bulman will hopefully be playing pro ball this time next summer!