It’s been a whirlwind for Alton High grad Bryan Hudson.
The 6-foot-8 phenom lefty pitcher graduated from AHS in June, got drafted in the third round by the Chicago Cubs and began his pro career in the Arizona League. All that and he just turned 18 in May.
Life-changing is an understatement for the Godfrey native.
Recently on a return trip home to visit his family and friends, I caught up with the pitching prodigy to discuss his experiences. He said it’s been all about learning the nuances of pitching and getting mentally prepared for his pro career.
“The stuff I’ve been to so far is just taking looks at the game in different ways,” Hudson said. “I’ve learned some good tricks to getting hitters out and learned to watch hitters and their approach and how their bat goes through the zone. I’ve worked on my mechanics, getting that a lot more sound. I’ve worked on a lot of stuff in more four months down there.”
He made five appearances in Arizona League games over the summer, tossing 6.2 innings, fanning 5 and walking 2 while posting a 2.70 ERA. The first outing didn’t go so well, but he said it got progressively better from there.
He admitted his nerves crept in a little in that first pro appearance.
“It was very nerve-racking,” Hudson said. “It was my first time facing an actual hitter in a game since my high school season. I’d thrown multiple bullpens and BPs, but it was the first time I had a live, actual experience against a professional hitter.
“It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but that’s all part of the process. You’re going to fail, so you just have to learn how to get over it.”
In that first outing, Hudson threw 0.2 innings, walking 1 and allowing 2 earned runs on 2 hits. During his second appearance he worked 1 scoreless inning, surrendering 1 hit, fanning 1 and walking none.
“The outings after that slowly got better,” Hudson said. “The second one wasn’t as bad, and as I got used to it and back into a rhythm of pitching again it all came back to me and the outings slowly and surely got better. It was never my best performance, but it wasn’t too bad.”
He said he’s learned a lot from his experienced head coach Carmelo Martinez and his pitching coach Ron Villone. Martinez played in 1,003 games during a 9-year career in the majors from 1983-91. Villone, a lefty pitcher, pitched for 15 years from ‘95-09. He pitched in 717 games, including 93 starts.
“Ron Villone has really been helping me out,” Hudson said. “He’s a lefty, too, and he has all kinds of good pitches and experiences; he knows a lot about the game. He just knows so much and he’s an easy person to talk to. He’s a really good coach.”
The offseason schedule for Hudson includes going to camps for three weeks and then getting to come home for three weeks. Currently he’s at a weight training camp, which he left for on Nov. 1.
Maybe more overwhelming than the baseball experiences has just been being away from friends and family. Hudson candidly admitted his life experiences to this point have primarily been in the Alton/Godfrey area.
“I miss everybody like crazy,” Hudson said. “Especially now that basketball season is coming up I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss it a ton.
“Whenever I’m out there I miss everybody. I feel like I’m missing a lot more than I really am just because I’ve been here my whole life. I’m getting used to it, slowly but surely.
“It’s opened up my perspective on the world, really. Before I got drafted I didn’t really leave Alton very much. Just since being drafted and doing all kinds of things baseball-wise I’ve learned so much in the short few months. It’s crazy if I sit back and think about it.”
Basketball was also a major portion of his life as a standout player for the Redbirds. He helped lead them to the sectional finals last season. Though he won’t be playing, Hudson’s plan is to be part of Alton head coach Eric Smith’s staff when he’s in town.
“After I come back from this weight lifting class, that’s when I’ll really start helping because I’ll have all of December off,” he said.
For now he’ll just be a sponge, taking in all the experiences and learning as much as he can. Since it’s his first season, he’s attending every camp and meeting everyone in the organization and all he can do is enjoy it.
“It’s just my first offseason I have to go to all these camps just to get used to everybody and meet everyone,” he said. “I’m not really sure what next offseason brings.”
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