As the college baseball regular season comes to a close, I caught up with one of my athletes, Yale Hughes to reflect on his four-year college career at West Liberty University. We discussed how he’s overcome on-field struggles to have a successful senior season, and what his goals are going into the 2017 post-season with the West Liberty Toppers! Enjoy -Alex
Choosing the right college to attend isn’t always the easiest decision to make. Being from New York how did you end up at West Liberty University (West Virginia)?
Yale: The summer going into my senior year my AAU baseball team played in this big tournament in West Virginia, I pitched pretty well at the game and the showcase, and a few coaches got into contact with me. I visited a few schools that had my major (exercise physiology), narrowed it down to which ones gave me the best offers scholarship-wise, and Coach Burkle was one of the only coaches that wasn’t opposed to having dual position players, so I decided to go to West Liberty.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in playing four years of college baseball?
Yale: I would say that the most important thing I learned in my four years of college baseball is to not get caught up in statistics. Getting down on yourself after a bad weekend of baseball can only make the next weekend worse. You don’t play everyday like summer ball, so you’ve got to learn from each weekend and prepare throughout the week, instead of mulling over how you did the last series.
In December, when I first met with you for your initial assessment, you weren’t happy with your 2016 performance. What changed from the summer of 2016 to this off season (2016-2017) that you can credit your solid 2017 campaign thus far?
Pitching: 6-6 | 78 IP | 4.94 ERA | 50 Strikeouts
Hitting: 3-5 | 2 Doubles
Pitching: 4-2 | 46 IP | 2.91 ERA | 40 Strikeouts
Hitting: 36-111 (.324) | 7 Doubles | 1 Triple | 6 Home Runs (tied for team lead) | 32 RBI’S (leads the team)
Yale: Last year (2016) I had a down year. I was battling a hip flexor strain the whole year, so that’s partially why I didn’t hit very much. I was 3 for 5 hitting on 8 pinch hit appearances. As for pitching, I didn’t make the right adjustments throughout the year, I just kept trying random things hoping that I would get better. I didn’t really know how to train for baseball and I didn’t move very well. I had no idea where the ball was going. I literally couldn’t throw an outside fastball to a right handed batter if my life depended on it. It was horrible. Going into the summer, my goals were to reset, get healthy, and relearn how to play baseball. Luckily, I had some incredible coaches this summer that helped me every aspect of the game. I credit Coach Atlee Pierson for the Oneonta Outlaws in the PGCBL with so much. He taught me about the mental part of the game, like knowing who I am as a baseball player. I learned more this summer than ever, and it opened my eyes to how much information there is about this game. I started watching videos of the best hitters and pitchers and reading saber-metrics articles 24/7. Baseball is all about putting yourself into a position to succeed, and I would say learning about myself and baseball has helped me be in a better position to succeed. Training this offseason with you has helped me as well. This season I’m stronger, faster, and more powerful on the field. I know what to do off the field with my lifting and eating and I feel I have edge over everyone. It’s my senior year and I definitely move better this year than when I did as a freshman. Knowing how to warm up before practice and games has helped me feel real good too. I feel like it sets me apart from other guys that don’t do the right things.
How much work does it take to be a successful pitcher and hitter at the collegiate level?
Yale: It is pretty tough being a two way player, mostly because of the time commitment. Somedays I’ll have two practices, physical therapy, and lifting. Most of the time practices are at different times for hitters and pitchers, so when half the guys get to leave after practice, I have to stay for another practice. The biggest thing for me was to stay organized and bring a ton of food to practice. I have to stay on top of my school work or I’ll have to stay up really late to finish it, and when it comes to nutrients, if I don’t bring food to practice or eat in between hitters’ and pitchers’ practice I’ll get low on energy and really hangry.
As a guy who’s played four years of college baseball what would you say is the most important thing for a incoming freshman to focus on?
Yale: Incoming freshman need to realize that baseball is all about putting yourself into a position to succeed, whether it’s eating right, doing the right warm up, lifting for baseball, or even by knowing who you are as a ball player and not trying to do too much. Also don’t get discouraged if you don’t play or have a bad day, week, or even year. It’s never too late to change something and turn it around.
What are your goals for this team as you guys get ready for the Moutain East Conference Tournament?
Yale: For the rest of the season I think we need to win the next series and go into the conference tournament with some momentum. It’s our team goal to win the conference tournament, win 30+ games, and get to the regional tournament. I think this is the most talented team we have had in my career, and if we play together and stay confident, we can do it!
Rapid Fire Questions!
Most prize possession? My bat. It’s perfect.
Best baseball moment thus far? Bottom of the 13th walk off dinger. The most hype I’ve ever seen my team and it was incredible.
Favorite exercise you did with me? Anything with the medballs…I still think I can throw it further than Matt. 😉
4. Least favorite exercise you did with me? V-Situps
Walk out song?
Pitching: Holy Diver by Dio
Hitting song 1: Strokin’ by Clarence Carter
Hitting song 2: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
Favorite pregame meal? Cheese and spinach omelette, oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit. Always bring a coffee to the batting practice too.
I couldn’t end this interview without asking about your pet turtle. Tell us the story of how you rescued him. My turtle’s name is Crush, he’s the man. He’s a painted turtle and I’ve had him for about 2 years, I actually rescued him from a busy parking lot after a flash flood when he was about the size of a quarter. I recently got him some feeder fish and he’s too slow to catch them so it’s really funny to watch.
Where can everyone find you?