Former Cortland High three-sport standout Yale Brian Hughes is ready to play baseball professionally.
Hughes, the son of Yale and Michele Hughes, graduated from West Liberty University (West Virginia) in May and last week signed a contract to pitch for the Santa Fe Fuego of the Pecos League as a pitcher. His first pro outing will be Sunday against the White Sands Pupfish. While he signed as a pitcher, Hughes will be able to bat as the Pecos League, which is independent and operates under National League rules.
The Fuego is the league’s Mountain Division, which consists of teams from New Mexico (including Santa Fe and White Sands), Colorado, Kansas and Texas. The league’s Pacific Division includes teams from Arizona and California.
Hughes, 22, was a pitcher, first baseman and outfielder as a four-year starter at Cortland High. He was a first team All-League selection twice and a first-team all-state selection his senior year (2013), when he was a key part of the Purple Tigers’ Section 3 Class A championship.
Hughes received a baseball scholarship at West Liberty, where he started all four years as a pitcher, outfielder and designated hitter. This past season — his senior year — .he was named a first-team All-Mountain East Conference pitcher and a second-team all-conference outfielder.
He was 4-2 as a pitcher with a 2.92 ERA and 44 strikeouts, 19 walks and 47 hits allowed in 52.1 innings this spring, holding opposing hitters to a collective .242 batting average. As a hitter, Hughes compiled a .328 batting average and a team-high .586 slugging percentage with seven home runs and a team-high 39 RBIs, 22 of those coming with two outs.
Hughes played two seasons as a pitcher, outfielder and first baseman for the Cortland Crush of the New York Collegiate Baseball League and last summer was a pitcher-outfielder with the Oneonta Outlaws of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
“Honestly, it’s just a blessing,” Hughes said of playing professional baseball. “You always dream of it. It’s not the major leagues, but it is pro baseball. I can’t put it into words. All of the baseball I’ve played before this led up to getting the call. There’s no better feeling.”
The call Hughes referenced came last Friday from Fuego player-manager T.J. Zarewicz, who is actually one of the team’s pitchers. “My coach at West Liberty, Eric Burkle, texted me last Thursday and said that (Zarewicz) had called him about me,” Hughes said. “I have no idea how they found me. The next day (Zarewicz) called me, said they needed pitchers and told me to get down there as soon as I could. I’m on the bump Sunday. I’ll get a chance to show them what I can do at the plate, but I signed as a starting pitcher.
“The league is spread out and it’s pretty good. Mostly pitchers move up from there (to professional teams). The air is thin in the league’s cities so I guess they figure if a pitcher does well there that he can pitch anywhere.”