Tristan Nguyen is using baseball as a vehicle to a better life and making his family proud.
The Johnson High senior, who is the son of hard-working Vietnamese immigrants, thanks his blessing every day to play the game he loves and to live in the United States.
And as a left-handed pitcher who can get up near 90 mph with his fastball, and has good offspeed stuff, too, his ceiling playing the game is limitless.
Nguyen has already committed to play at Georgia State, but has a lot left to do in high school.
His dream is to help the Knights get into the playoffs in 2022.
With his tools on the mound, Nguyen will have pro scouts checking in on him in the coming season. Playing professional baseball would mean everything to the soft-spoken hurler.
However, family and his education is first.
Nguyen has a 3.96 GPA.
Tristan’s father, Thach Nguyen works in a textile mill, while his mother Kim Dao works as a manicurist.
They’ve counted their blessings for what life has provided in the United States, after escaping poverty in war-torn Vietnam decades ago.
On Aug. 26, 2020, Nguyen gave his verbal pledge to Georgia State and with good grades will certainly be able to supplement his athletic scholarship with academic scholarships.
Now, Tristan’s carving out a path for a brighter future.
“I’m going to be the first person in my family to go to college,” said Nguyen, who picked up his love of baseball from his older brother Ethan. “I think all the time about how grateful I am to be here.”
Nguyen’s success has been not gone unnoticed, even though the Knights have struggled to piece together wins during his career.
As a junior, Nguyen had 14 strikeouts and allowed just one walk over eight innings in a 6-0 loss to White County.
The hard-throwing lefty also had nine-strikeout performance over just three innings in a region loss to Loganville.
Wins have been hard to come by for Nguyen in high school.
However, loyalty means everything to him.
Nguyen said ample schools have approached him about moving in to their district to play baseball, but he’s resolute on staying at Johnson.
Even though he’s one of the few Asian students at Johnson, Nguyen considers its student body a tightly-bonded extended family.
In 2022, the Knights will have a pair of solid left-handed starters back on the bump: Nguyen and Peyton Lavergne.
“When other schools talked to me, I joked and said ‘we’ll see’” Nguyen said. “But I knew all along I was going to finish what I started at Johnson.”
Nguyen grew up idolizing Tom Glavine, the Hall of Fame left-handed pitcher. He’s also a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, which is another position Nguyen plays when he’s not on the mound.
As an Asian-American, Nguyen is very mindful of being a good role model for younger kids who come from the same ethnicity.
“We don’t have a very big Asian-American population around here,” Nguyen said. “I want to show people that Asians can do anything they want to do.
“People think all Asians want to be doctors, but I want to show that Asians can be successful, whether it’s dancing, singing, baseball or anything else.”
Johnson’s rising-senior ace is known for his velocity.
However, he takes more pride in his control and attacking the strike zone.
Nguyen said nothing gets under his skin more than allowing a walk.
His profile on Perfect Game, a networking website for monitoring and recruiting the top talent, is nothing short of flattering.
“Fastball was up to 85 mph and mixed in a sharp slider that had late bite to it. Also proved to have feel for a change-up. Swing-and-miss type stuff and shows ultimate confidence on the bump. Solid pick-off move and held runners on,” his profile said.
Nguyen, one of many elite high school pitchers for 2022 in Hall County, said his crowning achievement was picking up a win against West Hall with five innings pitched in relief and seven strikeouts.
He became a hot college prospect in the summer of 2020, when contact was limited due to the COVID-19. Georgia State pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Matt Taylor called Nguyen last summer with a scholarship offer, which caught him totally off guard, at the time.
“I remember I was driving over to my friends house when he called me,” Nguyen said.
As a junior, Nguyen started journaling his progress so he can go back later and read his commentary.
It’s a habit he picked up from hearing that New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom does the same thing.
Nguyen said he’s hard on himself sometimes, but it’s just a way of trying to perfect his craft.
He is constantly keeping tabs on his arm slot and delivery.
One thing that never changes for Nguyen is his demeanor on the mound.
A constant ‘Poker Face’ leaves the opposition unable to read his body language.
Nguyen said he has faced discrimination and has heard disparaging comments about his race, especially since the nation’s pandemic changed everyone’s lives in 2020.
However, he doesn’t get mad when he faces racism for being Asian.
When Nguyen hears a flippant comment from the opposition, he just smiles and lets his talent do the talking.
“I’m a pretty quiet person, don’t talk a lot,” Nguyen said. “But when I hear someone say something about me being Asian, it brings out my aggressiveness.”
In the fall, Nguyen will be running cross country for Johnson to expand his stamina and stay in shape for baseball season.