When talking about an up-and-coming baseball prospect, the chatter always comes down to the “tools” a player has in his repertoire: Is he fast? Can he hit? How’s his glove?
Wharton High senior first baseman and designated hitter Michael Hudson has a number of the tools college coaches look for, so much so that he has been offered a chance to play baseball at the college level next year at nearby Saint Leo University near Dade City.
However, it was a whole different set of tools Hudson relied on for two weeks last October, as he and his father, Scott, joined other members of Cypress Point Community Church on a mission trip to Thailand. There, the Hudsons and other volunteers spent a week working at a local orphanage in Chiang Mai, addressing the serious building and rehabbing needs of the girl’s dormitory.
Hudson said he split his days hanging new lockers, replacing doors and windows, and sanding and repainting interior and exterior walls. But, because he was one of the few workers under 25 years of age, he often found himself being pulled away from the work by the young children of the orphanage to play sports — often finding himself challenged to foot races.
“The smiles on the kids’ faces when they saw me, because I was with a bunch of adults, was really special,” Hudson says. “They knew I could run, so they made me run a lot. They were 12-hour days and I’d spend about six hours building, sanding or painting. The other six hours I’d spend playing with them.”
Hudson said the trip was a great experience, both because it gave him a sense of accomplishment in providing care to the facilities at an orphanage, as well as getting to spend some quality time working beside his father, Scott, who owns and operates ServiceMaster of Tampa Bay, a contracting business that specializes in emergency rehabs of flood, fire and mold damage.
“The thing that stood out for me was how me and my Dad connected throughout the trip,” Michael says. “He is busy at work and I have school and baseball, but this was two weeks we were able to spend together, building our relationship up.”
Although the work in Thailand was the first official building project the younger Hudson has undertaken, it’s far from his first time showing off his handy side.
At Wharton, Hudson has never shied from helping with field upkeep, being labeled as the go-to guy by baseball head coach Scott Hoffman for projects like putting up the windscreen around the baseball field fences, or replacing the tires and the netting on the batting practice roll-cage.
“He’s our resident construction guy here at school,” Hoffman says. “He’s a big help to this team, a great student and a tremendous leader for our program.”
For Hudson, the sense of challenge and the resulting feeling of accomplishment is what he enjoys most about any creative project.
“When you start a project, sometimes you start to think, ‘Oh wow, I’m never going to get this done,’” he says. “But you keep working super hard at it and you finish it up. I always get that tingling feeling that makes me appreciate what I was able to do.”
On the field, Hudson was a key contributor last season as a junior, hitting .312 for the year with 15 RBI and 12 runs scored, while serving as the Wildcats 1B/DH. He began his career at Wharton aiming to play shortstop; however, a series of injuries changed those plans and led to his transition to first base.
“We thought he was going to be our guy at shortstop for the future when he came in as a freshman, but he ended up blowing out his right knee,” Hoffman says. “He came back from that and hurt it again, then came back and dislocated his shoulder, but he never once complained. He’s been through hell and has the best attitude in the world.”
For Hudson, the injuries were no different than any other task put in front of him to accomplish.
“Injuries happen to all athletes, you just have to put your faith in God,” Hudson says. “You do what you have to do. You fight, you just work harder.”
Playing baseball at the professional level is still Hudson’s dream, and he plans to study business at Saint Leo with the hope of working in athletics. He doesn’t see a career in construction or contracting in his future, but he says he hopes the desire to build and create will always be a part of his life.
“Baseball is going to be that number one goal for me after college,” Hudson says. “But at Saint Leo, I plan on majoring in sports-related business and would look to work for some (professional) organization, so I don’t really see construction as a career path for me at this time,” Hudson said. “But I’ll never be paying anyone to do anything once I get my own house, I’ll always be doing that kind of stuff myself.”