Meet Southern’s Hampton Hudson: ‘The best team guy we have,’ a key veteran in the outfield

7 days ago The Advocate 0

As the only returning position starter from Southern’s Southwestern Athletic Conference championship team, junior outfielder Hampton Hudson is well aware of the target on the backs of this year’s club.

He sees it, but he says there is no need to feel it.

“As long as I’ve been here, we’ve been picked to finish last,” Hudson said Tuesday. “It’s a flip of the script, but you don’t approach it any differently than if you are picked last.”

Southern coach Kerrick Jackson is counting on Hudson, among others, to profess that sentiment among a Jaguars team with 21 new players, eight of them freshmen. Even with all that turnover, the Jaguars were picked to win the SWAC West title in a preseason coaches poll.

Hudson is a good place to start for leadership. He’s been immersed in the culture Jackson brought two years ago and ready to assume a full-time role in center field. He is starting a tradition of wearing the uniform No. 3 — inherited from last year’s center fielder, Jayvean Williams — to signify the Jaguar who epitomizes that culture.

“He’s the best team guy we have,” right-hander Eli Finney said. “He’ll let you know if you’re not doing something right. Everybody knows you’ve got to buy into what he’s saying.”

Indeed, Hudson readily accepts the role and the challenge. He batted .305 last season with a .423 on-base percentage and 17 stolen bases without being caught. That has created credibility with his teammates, and he’s not shy about speaking up.

“He’s the definition of what this program is supposed to be about,” Jackson said. “He’s holding teammates accountable and wanting to go about things the right way. It’s not about him, but making sure we win as a team. He’s doing a real good job holding his teammates accountable and building that culture.”

As well as leading, Hampton will likely bat leadoff in the order. He played summer ball in St. Joseph, Missouri, working to refine all parts of his game. He particularly worked on baserunning skills in anticipation of being the setup man for the offense.

Hudson will step into the spot vacated by Williams, his good friend and confidant.

“When he gets on base, he finds ways to score,” Jackson said. “He will be a run scorer, not a run producer. He’s going to score and steal bases, and on defense he’s a ball hawk. Jayvean was a quality center fielder, but we won’t miss a step with Hampton. He runs just as well and has that knack for making plays.”

Hampton’s sincerity of belief is what the younger players will watch and as much as he talks about potential he’s also realistic.

“Last year, guy after guy, it was like a train, a mentality,” Hudson said. “One guy gets a hit and it was done from there, everybody was going to do their thing. The train kept on going.

“We have the ability and potential to do that this year. It might take some time with the younger guys. We have some JUCO guys that have the ability to hit the ball and have power you don’t see from their physical ability. They put the barrel on the ball. It will take time to find that rhythm with each other.”