ROBBIE HUDSON: STRANGE PATHWAY TO TEXAS LONGHORNS’ INFIELD

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

I still ask myself how?

How in the world did Redlands’ Robbie Hudson work his way to Riverside City College, the class of California Junior College baseball, to — of all places — the University of Texas.

The 2001 Redlands High graduate, who was part of a nice collection of Terrier ballplayers from that era — outfielder Curt Mendoza taken by Cleveland, infielder Chris Wilson selected by Texas, Chris Hernandez plucked by the Pirates, plus catcher Bret Martinez taken by the Angels — who eventually got drafted by MLB teams.

That Hudson survived seven seasons in minor league baseball after his collegiate years is a testament to how tough this little non-power, 170-pound infielder was over his career.

I remember seeing Hudson’s photo — leaping in the air to snag a throw from his Longhorns’ catcher — appearing on the Associated Press wire.

That’s big!

Robbie Hudson
Redlands’ Robbie Hudson, a College World Series champion.

In the end, Hudson batted nearly 2,000 times in minor league games — a .249 average, 16 total HRs, playing either second base or shortstop. He never was an all-out regular, appearing in a career-high 112 games for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2006.

That was just one season after helping the Texas Longhorns win the College World Series.

Robbie’s dad, Bob, just laughed at the questions.

Redlands to RCC? RCC to Texas? Texas, it seemed, wasn’t in the habit of picking up junior college recruits, especially from California.

“Texas didn’t have any guys on that team,” said Bob Hudson, “out of California — except Robbie.”

There was one from Colorado. Another from Oklahoma. Virginia and Louisiana each landed one. Hudson was wrong about his son being the only Californian. Thomas Incaviglia came from Monterey. All others were homegrown Texans.

Hitting .287 and .292 in back-to-back seasons on that Longhorns’ team, Hudson played a considerable role in Texas’ championship years.

He was teammates with future No. 1 picks like Drew Stubbs, Huston Street, J.P. Howell, Kyle McCulloch, not to mention highly-regarded catcher Taylor Teagarden.

Hudson had gone from one great coach, RCC’s Dennis Rogers, to another, Texas’ Augie Garrido.

Augie Garrido
Texas coach Augie Garrido, who left Cal State Fullerton to take over at the University of Texas, had Redlands’ Robbie Hudson in the Longhorns’ lineup when they won the 2005 College World Series (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In 2004, Garrido’s Longhorns reached the College World Series championship finals, but lost to Cal State Fullerton in a two-game sweep, 3-2 and 6-4.

Hudson wasn’t in the lineup in a game saved by Street, an eventual MLB closer.

There had to be some irony involved that Fullerton had once been Garrido’s team, having departed the Titans after the 1996 season for the legendary Longhorns.

Future Dodger slugger Justin Turner was a prime member of Fullerton. Southpaw Ricky Romero (13-5, 2.86 ERA), another MLB-bound player, was its top pitcher. So was Wes Roehmer (7-3, 3.80). Both hurlers were first-round picks.

One season later, Hudson’s senior year, the Longhorns won it all.

Imagine having to get past Baylor. Or Tulane. Or Florida.

Texas (52-16) beat Florida twice, 6-2 and 4-2, to wrap up the CWS.

Truth be told, there weren’t all that many glittering names that would become MLB stars.

Baylor, for instance, had just one No. 1 pick, pitcher Mark McCormack (St. Louis).

Florida had Matt La Porta and pitcher Darren O’Day, who was still toiling on the MLB mound in 2018.

MLB teams must be salivating over a collegiate championship team, looking at each and every player in hopes of landing a future major leaguer.

Hudson, taken in the draft by the Chicago White Sox, had to be a prime example.

He swiped 69 minor league bases, knocked out 88 doubles and 10 triples, hitting only into 29 double plays and fielded .963.

Spending time in the Philadelphia, Seattle and San Diego chains, his minor league stops included Class AA Birmingham, Class AAA Tucson and Lehigh (Pa.), not to mention Class A Winston-Salem in such legendary spots as the Carolina League, Southern League and the International League, among others.

In the minors, Hudson was teammates with plenty of No. 1 MLB picks — John Mayberry, Jr., Jack Cust, Nate Nump, Jason Grilli, Joe Savery, Phillippe Aumont, Aaron Heilman and Gordon Beckham, plus Buster Posey’s current backup catcher Nick Hundley (San Francisco).

There may have been no better spot than Omaha, Neb., however — legendary site of Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series. Hudson singled in his final collegiate game.

Rosenblatt Stadium, it turns out, was home over a four-year stretch (2002-2005) to former Redlands ballplayers. Hernandez, pitching for University of South Carolina, had been there in back-to-back years with the Gamecocks in 2002 and 2003.

Hudson showed up there in 2004 and 2005.

 

 

 

 

POWER PITCHING CHRIS HERNANDEZ LANDED IN COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

In honor of the College World Series, which is getting underway.

Redlands’ Chris Hernandez had a nice fastball, good command.

Chris Hernandez
Redlands’ Chris Hernandez got his shot at the College World Series — twice, in fact, with the University of South Carolina (photo by USC).

He was part of some nice Redlands High School teams which, for some reason, has never reached a CIF Southern Section championship game in well over 100 years of taking the diamond.

Out a fairly impressive list of Redlands High pitchers — Shaun Benzor, Richie Burgess, Ben Washburn, John Herrera, David Quinowski, plus MLB veteran Ed Vande Berg and current RHS pitching coach Gary Pool — Hernandez was one of the best of that Terrier chain, sans Vande Berg.

In one game article describing his pitching, I’d referred to Hernandez as a “non-power” pitcher, noting observations made by three scouts having while observing.

It’s the kind of thing writers long for while watching a prep game. Hearing accounts of scouts is like tossing out meat for a tiger.

That observation drew disapproval from that particular prospect, who definitely had college and a pro career in mind for himself.

A few days later after that article, he got that off his chest, telling me that, indeed, “I AM a power pitcher.”

His years in the minor leagues — six seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ chain while reaching the Triple A level — might overlook some brilliant collegiate campaigns.

Hernandez’s travels took him first to Riverside City College and, eventually, landing at the University of South Carolina.

While watching him work for Redlands — its PONY All-Stars and, eventually, with the high school Terriers — Hernandez was part of a nice crop of ballplayers.

It led him to RCC, which notched back-to-back State junior college championships in 2000 and 2001 under a future Hall of Fame coach, Dennis Rogers.

That was the launching pad that led Hernandez to South Carolina for his junior and senior seasons in 2002 and 2003. The Gamecocks, one of seven teams from the baseball-rich Southeastern Conference to reach the NCAA Division 1 playoffs, made it to the College World Series in both years.

So here was Hernandez, a two-time All-Orange Empire Conference selection at RCC.

In 2002, the Gamecocks (57-18) had to get past Virginia Commonwealth, North Carolina and Miami in the Columbia, N.C. Super Regional.

At the CWS, Georgia Tech took down USC, 13-0, in the opening round.

Wins over Nebraska, a rematch over Georgia Tech, then a sweep over Clemson lifted the Gamecocks into the championship game against Texas.

The Longhorns, coached by the legendary Augie Garrido, beat the Gamecocks, 12-6.

Playing against such future MLB prospects as Huston Street (Texas), Kahlil Greene (Clemson), Nebraska’s Drew Anderson, Todd Sears and Brian Duensing, Aaron Hill (LSU), Stanford’s Ryan Garko, Jed Lowrie and Carlos Quentin, Chris Ianetta (North Carolina) — to name a few.

Hernandez (1-1, 3.27) pitched in 13 games that season.

South Carolina’s talent pool that season? Catcher Landon Powell (Oakland), pitcher Matt Campbell (Kansas City) and shortstop Drew Meyer (Texas Rangers) were eventual first-round round picks.

On a 45-22 squad in 2003, there were no less than 17 Gamecock players targeted by MLB teams. Powell, third baseman Brian Buscher (San Francisco), outfielder Kevin Melillo (Oakland) and infielder Steve Tolleson (Minnesota) were among those that eventually reached the majors.

Hernandez was 5-5 that season (3.32 ERA, 25 games, 84 innings), pitching three complete games though he appeared mostly in relief. Eight teams from the SEC battled their way into the NCAA playoffs.

It was Stanford that ultimately knocked out the Gamecocks in their chase to another CWS championship — twice, in fact, 8-0 and 13-6. In between those losses, USC had stayed alive with 11-10 win over Louisiana State.

LSU couldn’t hold on, despite the presence of future MLB reliever Brian Wilson, who closed down San Francisco’s 2010 World Series championship over Texas.

Rice (Texas) University beat Stanford two out of three to nail down the 2003 title.

As for his opponents, imagine pitching to future major leaguers like Ryan Garko, Jed Lowrie and Carlos Quentin, who were noted Stanford sluggers.

The Cardinal had 23 MLB draftees that year, including four No. 1 picks (Quentin, Lowrie, Danny Putnam and John Mayberry, Jr.), a No. 2 (Donny Lucy) and No. 3 (Garko).

With the Pirates, Hernandez made two all-star teams, chunking out 23 wins, 56 saves and a 3.22 ERA in 230 professional games between 2003 and 2009.

The Pirates?

Hernandez had some good seasons — 24 saves, 1.93 with the Class A Hickory Crawdads in his first full season as a pro, 6-1 record and a 2.86 ERA with Class AA Altoona Croon in 2007. At the Class AAA level, he spent parts of two seasons with the Indianapolis Indians of the International League.

He was 0-4 over 23 games in between a 4-0, 2.61 stint back at Altoona.

Hernandez was teammates with future MVP Andrew McCutchen, plus solid future MLB players like Neil Walker and Steve Pearce, both No. 1 draft picks. So were pitchers Bryan Bullington and Sean Burnett, who never quite made the grade at the MLB level.

Andrew McCutchen (Flickr)
Future MVP Andrew McCutchen was a minor league teammate of Chris Hernandez while the two worked their way up toward a hopeful Major League Baseball career in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ chain (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In all, Hernandez struck out 353 hitters over 324 1/3 innings as a seven-year minor leaguer — not bad for a power pitcher.

As for the College World Series, consider this: Hernandez first showed up there with the Gamecocks in 2002, repeating the appearance in 2003.

One season later, another ex-Terrier, Robbie Hudson, made the first of two straight trips to Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. — site of the annual CWS.

The Redlands Connection was in full effect at college’s biggest baseball showcase.