NEW BRITAIN - It’s been a different kind of summer for Tommy Hughes.
Normally in the middle of his summer baseball season, the Goodwin Tech alum and Southern Connecticut State pitcher had to change up his routine. The coronavirus pandemic had already cut short his sophomore season, limiting it to just 10 games and early on, the prospect of playing any kind of meaningful games until next year was bleak. But like many of his fellow baseball players, Hughes wanted to make sure he was ready just in case. That meant heading to a local field and training.
“I long tossed five days a week and threw a pen at the end of each week because during the regular season, I would throw once or twice a week,” Hughes said. “I was just trying to mimic that basically just to keep my arm fresh.”
It turned out to be the right decision.
Last Monday, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League announced after a lengthy delay that it would be playing games this summer in a condensed six-team, 39-game slate with a number new guidelines teams and players need to follow such as wearing a face mask in the dugout and having each player must get to the field on his own and bring his own equipment. But for those likes Hughes, it’s better than the alternative. Other summer leagues like the Cape Cod League and New England Collegiate Baseball League canceled their seasons outright on April 1 and May 1, respectively.
“I’m very excited about the upcoming season,” said Hughes, who signed on to play for the New Britain Bees. “I got lucky enough to be on one of the teams still playing.”
The Bees are set to begin their season Thursday night.
Hughes will also have the added benefit of being familiar with the league’s landscape. He played in the Futures League last season with the Bristol Blues, who have since joined the NECBL. Last summer, Hughes appeared in 23 regular season games with the Blues, going 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA with one save in 36 innings. He also struck out 43 and walked 28 before appearing in three of Bristol’s five playoff games, which eventually ended with the Blues losing to the Worcester Bravehearts in the FCBL championship game.
“Last summer was definitely helpful because I saw a good amount of talent that was better than what I saw in the spring,” Hughes said. “I’m sure I’m going to see the same talent this summer too, so it’s just a matter of continuing to get better.”
Hughes has seen himself get better throughout his brief collegiate career so far. As a freshman at SCSU last year, he went 2-3 with a 5.00 ERA in 27 innings coming out of the bullpen. In his shortened sophomore campaign, he finished with a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings of work. Part of that has been a result of him concentrating on strictly pitching. At Goodwin Tech, Hughes played both the infield and was a consistent performer on the mound.
Now, he’s looking to carry over that growth to his time with the Bees, where he’ll come on as a late-inning reliever like he did with the Blues last year.
“I’m working on becoming more consistent,” Hughes said. “My velocity has jumped a little and I’ve become a little more mature on the mound with pitch calling. I’ve had a lot good pitching coaches. I’ve been listening to a lot of good advice and having good people help me. The pitching coach here has been really helpful so far, coach [Brian] Hayden. He’s giving me a lot of tips and feedback and video on trying to make me a better pitcher and person.”
And this summer, he’ll finally get a chance to prove it.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org