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.