It is always interesting seeing someone you know become famous. Kyle Hudson, from my hometown of Mattoon, Illinois, excelled not only on the field but also on the diamond for the Illini, just as he did for his high school, the Mattoon Green Wave.
I remember watching Kyle play football and baseball, two years behind my graduating class, and seeing someone who carried himself as a winner, yet not arrogantly. Hudson knew he had talent, yet rarely, if ever, gloated about the fact.
Hudson was one of those rare two-sport athletes that translates to the college arena. Typically, many star athletes are multi-sport athletes in high school. That said, the amount of commitment, time and energy it takes to be a successful multi-sport athlete in college means that most are not able to fulfill that commitment. Hudson was the rare one who could — and be successful doing it.
Spending three seasons playing football, Hudson combined for over 1,000 yards on the ground and receiving, five touchdowns, and an average of 13.7 yards per catch in his career. In 2005, Hudson was named the Illinois Newcomer of the Year, football’s Rookie of the Year, and the team’s Most Outstanding Wide Receiver. His 469 yards as a freshman led the team, with seven catches of over 25 yards.
However, his career on the gridiron was greatly overshadowed by his time spent playing baseball. Over three years playing baseball for the Illini, Hudson was one of the best hitters in the Big Ten. He started in center field as a freshman, hitting a team-high .375 and stealing 10 bases under a part-time schedule due to football commitments.
His sophomore season saw a slight dip in average, down to .351, which was still second-best on the team. Sixteen stolen bases and a .427 on base percentage were simply a preview of what was in store for the Mattoonian’s junior — and final — season with the Illini.
The buzz was growing around Hudson and his performances for the Illini. At 21 years old, Hudson played in 53 games for the Illini, netting an absurd .398 batting average, .498 on base percentage, and 40 stolen bases. This amounted to one of the best seasons for an individual player in Illinois history.
Hudson still owns the second-best career average at Illinois, the second-most stolen bases in a season and third-most career stolen bases. Everywhere you look in the Illinois Baseball Record Book, Kyle Hudson’s name pops up.
In the 2008 MLB Draft, Kyle Hudson finally had his dream come true. In the fourth round, with the 116th overall pick, the Baltimore Orioles selected Hudson, finally validating the goal he had worked since high school to achieve.
On Sept. 1, 2011, Hudson finally got the call to join the Orioles on the Major League squad. While his professional career was not as long as he may have hoped, he has found a niche in coaching. After spending time as a volunteer assistant with the Fighting Illini, Hudson was named as the bench coach for the Lynchburg Hillcats, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.