Bryan Hudson always wore No. 11 during his time with the Alton Redbirds, whether it was on the basketball court or the baseball diamond.
Those two numbers mean a little more to him now after he signed for a reported $1.1 million with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night. Hudson was drafted by the Cubs in the third round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft with the 82nd overall pick.
“We'll say thank goodness for the Cubs he wasn't No. 54” Alton head baseball coach Haug quipped. “I think just based on where he was slotted to go it was a reasonable amount of money and it was what they felt comfortable with foregoing a scholarship to the University of Missouri.”
In the fall Hudson inked a letter of intent to pitch at Mizzou, but the writing was on the wall that there was a distinct possibility he would end up somewhere professionally.
A 6-foot-8 left hander with a devastating curveball and a fastball that sits regularly between 88-91 and tops out at 94 MPH, his stock continued to rise during the 2015 prep season for the Redbirds.
He finished his senior campaign with a 10-2 record, a 0.46 ERA and 152 strikeouts. For his career he leads Alton in almost every statistical category on the mound, wins (25), strikeouts (324), innings pitched (198.0) and lowest ERA (1.32). He also helped AHS set a school-record in wins this season, going 30-7.
It's been a long process for Hudson and his family, father Cory, mother Nicole and brother Koby, and Wednesday was the close of one chapter as well as the opening of another.
Hudson will soon head off to Chicago's Arizona League team in Mesa, Ariz. He's back at the starting line, but definitely not at the bottom of the heap. As a high draft pick he'll be put in a position to succeed.
“He's at the bottom of the heap as he's one of the youngest players in the system, but he's not at the bottom of the heap in terms of he's one of their high profile draftees,” said Haug. “He's earmarked for success. They are going to put him in every opportunity to be successful. He's going to start out with the Arizona Cubs out there, but it's been told to me that he's not going to pitch that much. He's coming off two high school seasons where he's pitched significant innings and coming off a basketball season, so they're going to acclimate him to professional life and professional baseball slowly and make sure he's having quote unquote, 'A fun summer.' That was used. They're going to work on building his body strength up and resting his arm.”
The Cubs were the leader of the pack throughout the scouting process, which featured a plethora of scouts in the metro east area to watch him pitch every time out. Even Cubs' President Theo Epstein showed up to watch the talented southpaw.
Haug was there through the process, trying to guide Hudson and keep the scouts abreast of his pitching schedule throughout the season. Wednesday was a happy day for the AHS coach, too.
“It's a dream a come true for him and his family. It's a dream come true for myself and Alton baseball,” Haug said. “He's got a ways to go to recognize the full extent of this dream, but this is a great stepping stone and we know he's in very, very good hands.”
Hudson becomes the most notable draft pick out of the metro east since Highland's Jake Odorizzi was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. Odorizzi is now in the starting rotation with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Some other locals who have gone in the draft in recent history, but not as high as Hudson include: Southwestern's Shaun Watson (41st round, 1990) and Jason Isringhausen (44th round, 1991), Edwardsville's Jason Boyd (8th round, 1994), Mark Little (8th round, 1994) and Justin Hampson (28th round, 1999), East St. Louis' Homer Bush (7th round, 1991) and Belleville East's Randy Wells (38th round, 2002), Granite City's Jake DePew (9th round, 2010) and Sam Coonrod of Carrollton (5th round, 2014).
“We've felt all along (the Cubs) have really looked out for Bryan and their plan for Bryan is indicative of how much they care about him,” Haug said. “They're really going to look out for him and transition him into professional baseball slowly and make sure he has every opportunity to be successful.”