Auston Gillespie, a Class of 2021 Pleasanton graduate, likes to challenge himself.
Pleasanton’s catcher didn’t care whether the challenge was in the classroom as a National Honor Society member, on the baseball diamond as the district Defensive Player of the Year in 29- 4A, in the family business at Gillespie Custom Cabinets or in the field as a volunteer firefighter with the Leming VFD.
“I’m a competitor. I like to be great at everything I do,” he said. “So, being in all these different things, I want to participate in them as much as I can. I don’t want to be in the volunteer fire department just for a title. I want to be there to contribute to the community and be able to make calls. It was the same way with the baseball team. I was at everything that we had for the program.”
Auston contributed and then some on the field for the Eagles in 2021. Pleasanton’s battery had a fielding percentage of .966 in 206 tries, the most of any Eagle player this season. He was credited with 178 putouts and 21 assists, and helped turn a pair of double plays during Pleasanton’s 25-9 season.
“He was another coach [on the field],” Head Coach Lance Standley said. “Another quality I admire is he’s a kid that can listen and says amazing things with just a few words. The things that lead the most are his character, his dedication and his leadership. All of those adjectives remind me of Auston. He’s an amazing kid.”
Gillespie, who joined the Leming VFD in February after roughly a month of training and tests, credits some of his success on the field to firefighting and vice versa. He believes both baseball and firefighting helped him maintain composure, whether it was a runner stealing a base in a pressure-packed game or a fully engulfed structure fire that required swift action.
“I’m just a teenager. I know life is going to get harder and I’m going to have more difficult problems other than just baseball,” Gillespie said. “But I’ve learned to handle tough situations better. The adrenaline rush I get when I’m firefighting is no different than being on the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs and you’re ahead by one run with a runner on third. They all compare.”
Auston is following in the footsteps of his father Loren and mother Tammy. Loren serves as the Chief of the Leming VFD and his mother is also a member of the VFD.
The first few months of his firefighting career have been tough to adjust to, especially for his mother. During his first structure fire call, Auston wanted to rush in to help and Tammy had to force herself to be ok with her son running into the blaze.
“He’s definitely developed into a young man,” Tammy said. “We went to his first structure fire on F.M. 3006. Me, as a mom, had to take off my momma bear hat. It was kinda hard seeing him want to go into a house fire. My husband was like, ‘Nope. He’s gonna be fine. He’s done the training. He’ll be fine.’ It was pretty remarkable to see him go in. It’s hard to put into words.”
Auston’s priorities went in this order: school, baseball and then firefighting. He never got those mixed up, even if he had to deal with a call at 2 a.m. on a school night. He was always at school on time the next day and at baseball practice. He even left his senior prom in May to fight a fire in Pleasanton on Sanchez Street. That showed his dedication to each of those priorities.
“In my opinion, it’s all about heart,” Loren, who’s been with Leming VFD for 15 years, said. “You’ve gotta have heart to want to do any of it.”
Auston is hoping to complete his training and eventually land a spot in the San Antonio Fire Department. He wants to stay close so he can still help at the shop for Gillespie Custom Cabinets.
“I want to get my basics done to become a certified firefighter and work my way into San Antonio,” Auston said. “I wanna work somewhere close because I still wanna work in the cabinet shop. It’s a big part of my life; I’ve been a part of it since I was a little kid, from sweeping the floors to now building cabinets and helping my dad with installs. I wanna stay somewhere close because I don’t wanna lose that. It’s very special to me.”