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June 6, 2012
Joe Hudson had a dream. That dream took a giant leap toward reality Tuesday when he was selected in the sixth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
“If they can give me enough money and it’s enough to pass up my senior year at Notre Dame, I will do so because I want to begin my professional career as soon as I can,” said Hudson, the Odessa, Fla., product.
“Notre Dame will always be there for me. But the chance to play professional baseball won’t be. So I’m going to take advantage of this if I can.”
Hudson, a career .245 hitter through his sophomore season with just one home run and 20 RBI, emerged as a star for the Irish as a junior and worthy of draft consideration in 2012. Hudson led the Irish in hitting (.332) while launching six home runs and collecting 39 RBI.
First and foremost, however, Hudson is known as a defensive specialist. He led the Big East in 2012 in throwing out runners (.380, 19-of-50) after recording similar numbers during his first two seasons in the program (.371, 26-of-70). Hudson started 51 games in 2011 and 57 in 2012. He earned second-team all-Big East honors and was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award.
“We as a coaching staff are so thrilled for Joe,” said second-year Irish head coach Mik Aoki. “He has always been a premium catch-and-throw player, but his hard work at the plate paid off with a breakout offensive season. This is a tremendous reward for an outstanding year.”
This also could prove to be a huge blow for the Irish, who relied on Hudson in the No. 5 spot in the lineup behind sophomores Eric Jagielo and Trey Mancini to improve from 23-29-1 in 2011 to 31-27 in 2012.
The Irish do not have a clear heir apparent at catcher with unproven Alex Carter, Forrest Johnson and Ricky Palmer currently on the roster. Incoming freshman Ricky Sanchez may ultimately have the best chance to succeed Hudson behind the plate.
Hudson will fly to Arizona with an advisor to discuss a contract with the Reds, who had spoken extensively with Hudson in the weeks leading up to the draft. Projected between the sixth and eighth round with speculation of going as high as the fifth and as low as the 10th, Hudson ultimately slotted accordingly.
Hudson could return to Notre Dame for his senior year, where he’ll need 30 credits (two semesters) to complete his degree in the Mendoza College of Business as a management consulting major. But when contacted Tuesday evening, Hudson sounded prepared to make the leap to professional baseball.
“At this point, I’ve already talked to the Reds and they’re going to treat me fairly as far as sixth round money goes,” Hudson said. “You do your homework, you do the numbers on that, and that’s more than enough money for me to leave Notre Dame my senior year because like I said, I’m very excited to begin my professional career.”
Hudson estimated that an offer to sign with the Reds would be in the $175,000-to-$200,000 range.
“I’m sad I’m leaving Notre Dame at the same time because it’s a place that has treated me very well the last three years,” Hudson said. “The coaches, first and foremost, have been great for me. My teammates, I’ll miss them as well. But in the end, it’s an opportunity for me to play professional baseball, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.
“If that’s the figure they’re going to present to me, I think I’m going to go ahead and take that and forego my senior year.”
Hudson was the 16th catcher selected in the draft and the 10th college catcher chosen. He is Notre Dame’s highest drafted catcher since the Chicago White Sox selected Ken Plesha in the first round in 1965.
Hudson said he hoped to finish his degree within the next few years.
“I will be getting my degree from Notre Dame,” Hudson said. “I don’t know when, hopefully sooner rather than later. I don’t have a timetable, but that’s the game plan.”
In the meantime, Hudson won’t be sitting on his laurels from the 2012 season.
“I’m very happy with the year I had, but it’s just one good year,” Hudson said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do. Getting drafted right now is a tremendous honor, but ultimately, I want to become a major league baseball player. That means I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”
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