Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton High School pitcher Bryan Hudson has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Missouri, but his pitching has drawn the interest of Major League Baseball. Scouts have been flocking to Alton to watch him at work.
There is no doubt that Bryan Hudson is creating quite the buzz on the prep baseball diamond this spring.
Standing 6-foot-8, left-handed, hitting 94 on the radar gun and possessing a curveball that makes the best prep hitters’ knees buckle have made him a baseball scout’s dream. In comparison, he was topping at 89 mph at the end of last season.
“He’s good,” Civic Memorial baseball head coach Gary Bruening said. “He hurts you on the mound and he hurts you at the plate.”
Bruening learned first hand on March 28 when his Eagles faced the talented southpaw at Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park.
“I told my coaches we just had too much Hudson,” Bruening said after CM’s 10-0 loss to Alton in Game 1 of a doubleheader. “I didn’t know what else to say, he hits a three-run bomb, he hits another home run, he no-hits us. He’s good; I don’t care what anybody says.”
Hudson has already inked a letter of intent to play at Mizzou next season, but with scouts piling into Moore Park in droves the question is whether he’ll ever take the mound in Columbia, Mo. Odds may be leaning toward him going in MLB’s Amateur Baseball Draft come June.
“It’s a very interesting and much more complicating unless you’re going through the process,” Alton head coach Todd Haug said. “It’s a balancing act trying to keep everybody focused. You can’t say that some of it isn’t a distraction and you have to learn to accept it and learn to work through it. He’s doing an outstanding job with that.”
Hudson added, “I usually talk to three or four scouts a day. I like it and I’m enjoying the ride, really. I talk to a few of them and sometimes I talk to a few of them twice a day. I see them at the game and then they call me before the game.”
So what is it that makes Hudson such a hot commodity? Besides the fact he’s 6-8 and left-handed, which are the obvious variables, he possesses what Haug has tagged “the best curveball the area may have ever seen.”
“He’s got a really good breaking ball and that’s kind of what makes him that elite guy,” Edwardsville shortstop Jordan Hovey said after the Tigers beat the Redbirds 6-1 on April 2. “He throws hard and his breaking ball is his out pitch. That’s his elite pitch. He’s always been an elite guy. I would say his velocity is up, too.”
Hovey’s coach, Tim Funkhouser, added, “He makes it tough on our hitters. His curveball is exceptional and his fastball gets on top of you. He’s a great competitor on top of that.”
The loss to Edwardsville was Hudson’s first of 2015. At press time Wednesday Hudson was sitting at 3-1 on the season in 17 innings with an 1.23 ERA. He has walked seven and fanned a whopping 36, while surrendering just eight hits.
Bruening raved about Hudson’s dynamic breaking ball, too.
“He threw his curveball two or three times on a full count and threw it for a strike and our guys were frozen,” Bruening said. “You just don’t see that pitch at the high school level. You don’t see it very often at any level, but he throws it for a strike on a 3-2 and my kids were like, ‘Where did that come from?’
“The umpire said, ‘They act like they haven’t seen a curveball.’ And I said, ‘Believe me, they haven’t seen one like this one.’”
Through all the hype, Hudson just tries to remain focused and humble like he’s always been.
“It’s awesome,” Hudson said. “I don’t let it get to my head. I just kind of do my thing out there with all the attention.”
His gives credit to his parents, Cory and Nicole, for keeping him grounded.
“They definitely keep my head ground level,” Hudson said. “They always tell me not to be too cocky and are always reminding me the right way to play.”
According to Haug, it’s Hudson’s personality that really makes him intriguing to scouts.
“The questions are a little more personality traits,” Haug said. “How does someone react to a situation? That type of stuff. Obviously the ability has brought them to the field and the ability should be a given. They are intrigued by the ability and in his case they are intrigued by not only his ability, but his left-handedness, his height and his potential, but at the same token they want to know how he’s going to react to a situation. What is he going to do if he’s away from home, how does he handle adversity, what kind of person is he and Bryan passes all those with flying colors.”
There is no animosity with teammates either. Alton junior pitcher Nick Cauley welcomes the attention for Hudson. He likes it and he knows his teammate can handle it.
“I almost feel like he takes the pressure off most of us and leads the way,” Cauley said. “I trust him. We trust him the most of anyone on our staff to do a nice job.”
The closest thing to compare Hudson’s hype to is what surrounded Highland phenom Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi was taken in the first round, 32nd overall by the Milwaukee Brewers, in 2008. Now he’s a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Years back we faced Odorizzi seven times in four years,” Bruening said. “He’s from the right side and Hudson’s from the left side. They are two of the best pitchers I’ve seen and I’ve been around for a long time. Obviously we see where Odorizzi is.”
Odorizzi received a $1.06 million signing bonus. It’s a precedent Hudson looks at, but he doesn’t put too much stock into it.
“A bunch of people are always giving me little hints and stuff of what (Odorizzi) went through, but he’s one guy and him and I are a lot different,” Hudson said. “We’re just trying to play it the best that we can.”
Hudson does have an adviser to help him decide what to do come June.
“There is a specific cutoff line and my family and I are trying to decide that,” Hudson said. “Slowly and surely we’re talking with my adviser, so I’m not really sure yet.”
Hudson did get a grin when asked what his dream team would be if he decides to sign.
“I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but I’m not really looking for anyplace in particular,” Hudson said, laughing.
It should be an interesting spring and summer for the Hudson family.
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