What a difference a year makes.
This time last summer, Arab head baseball coach Chad Hudson and his staff were working hard to replace nine seniors and basically six starters.
“We had a lot of unknowns,” Hudson said.
A season later, several of those “unknowns” had stepped forward and led the Knights to the Class 5A playoffs. Even after a wild, 16-11 loss to East Limestone in the third game of an opening round playoff series, the young Knights could boast of a 20-11 season.
Hudson called it one of the most fun teams he’d ever coached. Optimism for the future was high.
That optimism remains high after the team concluded formal summer workouts on June 24. Hudson still has most of the talent of the 2019 team. Now that talent has a year’s worth of varsity experience, and other promising young players are knocking on the door.
“We had an outstanding summer,” Hudson said. “We have a veteran team returning and we played like that this summer.
“We played in two tournaments and did really well in those against some really good teams, like Hazel Green, Huntsville, Madison Academy, Fort Payne, Boaz and the like. We had some guys who really look like they are ready to take on a bigger role in our program and we had some guys who really embraced leadership and all the things that requires.”
One of those is rising senior Will Hudson, who recently committed to the University of North Alabama, where is older brother Drew plays.
A few weeks earlier, Hudson the Arab player was named to the Class 5A All-State First Team after a junior season that saw him compile a .464 batting average, with five home runs, eight doubles, two triples, 42 runs scored, 35 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
And those were just his batting statistics. UNA is recruiting Hudson as a pitcher, and why not? Last season, he was 7-1 with one save in 30 innings pitched. He gave up 19 hits and struck out 54 (see more on Hudson in “In the Tank,” elsewhere on this page).
But Arab’s 2020 baseball team will have more than Will Hudson. The Knights graduated just two seniors, and the returning core showed this summer it’s ready to take the next step.
“Summer workout attendance has been outstanding and we have really had a positive vibe all summer,” coach Hudson said. “Our players have developed a confidence about them where we expect to compete at a high level each game.
“We as coaches are very excited about the upcoming season. We welcomed 15 freshmen to the junior varsity this summer. They are a deep and talented group, and we were happy with the progress they made this summer as well.”
The Knights will wrap up July in the weight room all month and will be back on the field in the fall with small group instruction workouts, according to Hudson.