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Baseball: Hudson noticed by pro scouts

Andrew Owens | Thursday, March 29, 2012

After junior catcher Joe Hudson went 1-for-3 with three RBIs on Sunday to cap off a 4-for-10, seven-RBI weekend and an Irish sweep over Pittsburgh, Irish coach Mik Aoki said that’s not the production he wanted out of his starting catcher.

“From a selfish standpoint, I wish he was hitting .290 and we didn’t have all the scouts in the stands looking at him,” the Irish skipper quipped.

It’s no surprise that national scouts have taken notice of what Aoki has known for a while now: Hudson can hit.

“Part of [his production] is on the assumption that he didn’t have a lot of offensive ability … He has good hand-eye, and for a kid hitting with strong power numbers, he doesn’t strike out a lot, he’s taken a lot of walks, he’s making pitchers pitch to him and I think that’s the key,” Aoki said. “It’s not that for his first two years that he was without offensive ability, it was just not necessarily well-directed offensive ability.”

After hitting .264 as a freshman with one home run and six RBIs in 22 games and .239 with no home runs and 14 RBIs in 53 games as a sophomore, Hudson has finally put it together in his third year at Notre Dame.

Hudson said this season he has benefitted from an improved approach and has stayed “locked-in” mentally during each at-bat.

“It all comes down to hard work in the offseason,” he said. “I feel very comfortable with these coaches … They’ve taught me so much about the game of baseball and life and I couldn’t speak higher about those guys. It’s really nice to see the success correlates to the field.”

Prior to the start of the season, Aoki said he expected a surge in protection from his catcher, though Hudson said he didn’t expect it to be this high – through Tuesday’s loss to Illinois-Chicago, the catcher compiled a team-high .411 average with two home runs and 22 RBIs in 23 games.

Aoki said he is hoping to hang on to his veteran catcher for a senior season, but is proud of the progress Hudson has made since joining the Irish program.

“I really do think he’s elevating himself into a position where he’s a seventh- or eighth-round [draft pick],” Aoki said. “Hopefully we hang onto him, [but] if not I’m pleased with what he’s done. His at-bats are such good at-bats, he just makes people get him out and he’s not afraid to hit with two strikes and part of that goes back to him having offensive ability.”

Part of the challenge for any catcher to produce offensively is to overcome the natural wear and tear inherent to the position. Despite Hudson’s swelling offensive output, he said he remains more concerned with defense and handling the pitching staff than his offensive output.

“Growing up, all my coaches said, ‘If you’re going to be a catcher, then be a catcher.’ I really thank all my coaches from high school and Little League for stressing defense first,” he said.

If Hudson continues to put up the numbers he has to this point in 2012, his coach can’t be disappointed in his catcher, not even selfishly.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu