When Tyler Austin was 3 years old, he desperately wanted a bicycle. When his parents got him one, he insisted they take off the training wheels and his mother, Kim, acquiesced after multiple battles. Her little boy was strong willed.
His grandmother worried, telling Kim, “That kid will break his neck.” But Tyler hopped on the bike and didn’t wobble.
“He never looked back,” Kim says.
There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, especially considering what Tyler has overcome to get to where he is now. The 21-year-old Austin is one of the Yankees’ brightest prospects, ranked fourth in their minor-league system by Baseball America and 75th in all of baseball by MLB.com. It’s not crazy to think he could reach the majors late in 2014, says Jim Callis, BA’s executive editor.
But all of that seemed far away when Tyler was 17 and got a doctor’s diagnosis so terrifying that he asked his mother not to cry in front of him. Just the look on her face was difficult enough to handle. Tyler had testicular cancer, a fast-growing teratoma tumor. He needed surgery and, perhaps, chemotherapy, too.
“The fact that I had it was one thing, but seeing her so upset was so terrible for me,” Tyler says. But along with asking his mom not to cry, Tyler told her and his dad, Chris, “I’m going to be fine.”
“He just knew it in his heart,” Kim says. “He’s very spiritual and he knew, ‘I’ve got this.’”
It was the same kind of cancer that Lance Armstrong had and the family bought Armstrong’s book that detailed the cyclist’s battle. It sat unopened for two weeks. Kim said she was too afraid of the words inside.
When she did crack the book, there was succor there. Armstrong’s story steadied the Austin family. They don’t feel the scorn some do for the disgraced cyclist after his recent admissions that he used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times.


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