Perhaps Jorge De Leon knocking Jay Austin upside the head wasn't a bad thing.
DeLeon, a shortstop, collided with the Lexington Legends center fielder as both pursued a fly ball on May 30.
A concussion sidelined Austin until June 12.
Did DeLeon knock a "hitting sense" into Austin?
Never miss a local story.
Not really. But since his return, Austin has been H-O-T.
"He did a lot of work ... and he made a few changes in his swing," Manager Tom Lawless said. "You could probably say he's the best player on the team right now."
Hitting .224 when he was hurt, Austin has tacked 51 points on, up to .275 going into Friday's game. In the 24 games since he returned, he is 36-for-100 (.360) with a homer — his first as a pro — 12 RBI, 17 runs, nine stolen bases, five doubles, three triples and four outfield assists.
Now, he's showing why the Astros used a second-round draft pick last year and a $715,000 signing bonus on a 17-year-old out of North Atlanta (Ga.) High School. And why Baseball America rates the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder the 10th-best prospect in Houston's organization.
"We knew the first half of the season would be a learning curve for him," said Ricky Bennett, assistant general manager and director of player development for the Astros. "A young kid going into his first (full) year. There was a lot of things that we felt he needed to learn and, as the season went along, we were hoping that he would start to pick things up a lot quicker, apply things a lot quicker.
"Since he's come back from the DL, he's really done that and we're really happy with where he is. We're going to continue to work with him every day and continue to feed things to him. Hopefully, he'll continue to make progress."
Austin had hits his first six games back, with three multi-hit efforts (8-for-15) to start.
More recently, Austin had a nine-game hitting streak snapped Wednesday. That streak included five consecutive and six-of-seven games with multi-hit totals.
He came back with a three-hit, two stolen-base game Thursday.
"I'm finally starting to see the ball — see it better," Austin said.
Sought by colleges for football and baseball, Austin was a quarterback, running back and receiver in high school.
His initial plan was to play both sports at Georgia. He later settled on baseball at Southern Cal, with plans to walk on to the football team.
But when the Astros beckoned, the left-handed batter and thrower said yes.
Although he was good from the get-go in baseball, at 6, it wasn't until his junior year of high school that he realized the game could become his job. Scouts loved his blend of speed and power (he hit 50 high school homers).
Austin made his pro debut last year with Greeneville of the Appalachian League. He hit .198, drove in 14 runs and stole 14 bases over 55 games.
The big adjustment to pro ball, he said, was the daily work routine. Games are preceded by batting practice, individual and situational drills, and even weight training.
"There's a lot of learning involved in what he's got to do before he gets to play at the big-league level," Lawless said. "He's definitely on the right path of understanding what everybody is trying to get to him — the information and knowing how to play the game."
Baseball America's pre-season report noted that "scouts found that (Austin) tends to cheat in his approach as he leans forward with his body, although it's not exactly a lunge. A good curveball can wipe him out."
Austin doesn't disagree.
"Yeah, I think that was one of my problems earlier in the year. I was getting out in front. After talking to Lawless, he helped me out a lot. So now I'm staying back behind the ball, seeing it better. ... He tells you how it is. No sugar-coating or anything."
Austin hit .191 the first month of this season. It took until May 20 to get his average above .200 for keeps.
"It was hard coming in every day and playing. My confidence was low, but you've just got to grind through it," Austin said. "I never doubted myself."
Nor did Lawless, who became familiar with Austin during spring training, saw the skills and picked up on the player's confidence. Lawless and coach Pete Rancont focused on Austin's swing.
"That's all he did the first half of the season, was top the ball all the time," Lawless said. "You can run, but you can't outrun everything. Now he's learned to stay behind the baseball, putting better swings on the baseball. Now the ball jumps off his bat. Now those balls go through the infield instead of the infielders catching it."
Yet, Lawless says Austin's biggest stride has been "dramatically" improved defense.
Through 68 games, Austin has seven assists, versus two errors. He earned team Defensive Player of the Month honors in June.
His value goes beyond box scores. Word has spread across the South Atlantic League. Fewer runners are willing to test his arm.
In Tuesday's 1-0 win over Rome, fleet-footed Jahdiel Santamaria was on second when Samuel Sime lined a single to center. Braves Manager Randy Ingle held Santamaria at third. A wise decision, as Austin pegged a bull's-eye to catcher Federico Hernandez.
"I try to play real hard on defense because I know defense is an important aspect of my game," Austin said.
His 18 stolen bases are more than twice as many as any other Legend. But so are his 12 caught stealings.
"I've just got to learn how to study the pitchers better, get better jumps," he said. "Once I get that down, we'll be good to go."
Lawless says Austin also needs a better sense of when to go and when not to go, and to improve his sliding technique. Among other things.
"That's why we have the minor leagues, so you can run through all those situations, so by the time he gets to the big-league level he knows when to break up a double play and he knows when to put a bunt down," Lawless said.
Austin hopes future hits will be confined to his bat rather than his head.
"I'm just hoping to finish up (the season) strong," he said. "And I hope we can get to the playoffs and win a ring. Because I want a ring."