Monday, July 15, 2013

An Interview with Nicole Hudson

There's a lot of new members on Team USA this summer, but none more exciting or impressive than former Missouri star Nicole Hudson. Even as tryouts concluded, before the members of the team were named, ESPN's Graham Hays tweeted that Hudson was definitely a player to watch on an international level.

Hudson was the very epitome of a superstar as a Tiger, as her name appears throughout the team's record book. She finished her career just one home run shy of the school's career record of forty-seven roundtrippers. Spending her final collegiate season in a brand new conference, Hudson raked against SEC pitching, to the tune of a .692 slugging percentage and sixteen home runs this season alone.

When the Tigers needed a second pitcher to spell workhorse Chelsea Thomas, Hudson stepped in and performed rather well. She posted an 11-6 record in ninety full innings, including a complete-game shutout in the NCAA Regional round.

Hudson gathered some interest during our National Pro Fastpitch mock draft, but she was not drafted in the actual NPF draft in April. She tried out for Team USA, and as I mentioned above, made the team.  In the World Cup of Softball this weekend, Nicole hit .500 with 2 RBI.  

Nicole's non-softball career of choice is graphic design, and she's quite excellent at what she does. If you've never checked out her website, I encourage you to do so! While you're at it, make sure you're connected to Nicole by following her on Twitter @NicoleHudson8

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball? When did you know it was “your game”?

Nicole Hudson: I started playing tee ball at age 4 in my hometown of Webb City, Missouri. The next year, we moved to coach pitch and when you play coach pitch, you get three strikes and if you strike out you get to hit off the tee. My dad told me that if I could go the whole season without having to hit off the tee, he would give me 100 dollars. I was a rich little 5 year old. J I tried about every sport under the sun growing up, but I instantly fell in love with softball.

JW: When did you know you wanted to play NCAA ball, specifically Division One?

NH: I wanted to play college ball for as long as I knew it even existed. It was always a goal of mine. It wasn’t until probably 7th or 8th grade that I realized Division One was a possibility. I wanted to play at the highest level I could. When I was young, I always played with girls two-three years older. I just wanted to push myself to be the best I could be, and to compete against the best.

JW: Why did you elect to play ball and study at Mizzou?

NH: I am a born and bred Missouri Tiger. My dad is a lifelong fan and it was always my dream to play at Mizzou. I took a visit my junior year of high school and Coach Earleywine told me about this hard-throwing recruit he had picked up from Iowa. I wanted to go somewhere that was going to be a contender for a national championship. I took a leap of faith in Chelsea Thomas and I had no idea it would turn out as good as it did.

JW: Describe Ehren Earleywine in three words.

NH: Competitor. Teacher. Intense.

JW: The Tigers made it to the WCWS your first two years, but just barely missed out in your final two seasons. For the two times you got to go, what was the whole OKC/WCWS experience like for you?

NH: It was magical! That really is the best way to describe it. You get to watch it on TV and sit on the sidelines your whole life, and to be one of the handful of people in the country who actually get to compete in it is one of the most rewarding experiences. You just get these random moments when you’re there, where you can step beck for a second and soak it all in. Anyone who gets to experience that is really lucky.

JW: You showed yourself not only to be a dynamite hitter, but also a reliable, durable pitcher during your career. Did your ability and success in one of those areas affect your performance in the other?

NH: I don’t know how reliable I was, but I appreciate that. I grew up pitching and continued to pitch all the way through high school. It wasn’t until my freshman year at Mizzou that I learned how to play a position. Due to some unfortunate, unforeseen events, I became our second pitcher this year. I never dreamed I would be pitching at the collegiate level, let alone the SEC. I definitely took my lumps, but it was in the best interest of our team. But I will always say that being a pitcher makes you a better hitter, and being a hitter makes you a better pitcher. You become smarter in both areas, and you begin to understand your competitor better. Plus if I get beat around on the mound, I’m so mad that I’m twice as motivated to get a hit.

JW: If you could relive or redo one moment from your career, what would it be?

NH: I wouldn’t redo a thing. All the experiences of my career, good and bad, have brought me to where I am today. There has been a lot of heartbreak, but that is the nature of the sport. You just have to let it fuel you to become better.

JW: How great of an honor was it for you to be invited to try out for Team USA?

NH: It has been number one on my list of goals to play for Team USA. It’s something that I figured would always just stay a dream. When I got that invite, I was honestly shocked. It was just an honor to share the field with such incredible athletes.

JW: What are you most looking forward to about competing for the red, white, and blue?

NH: It’s just a culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice. A lot of times I would be out practicing when I was younger; it would be hot, and I would be tired, and I knew my friends were at the pool and the last thing I wanted to do was go pitch. But to get through those long practices, I would pretend I was competing for Team USA just like all of my heroes. To know that I get to actually do what I have imagined all my life, that’s pretty incredible. And I am excited to compete alongside and against the best in the world. You can’t compete at a higher level!

JW: Did you have thoughts of or consider playing professional ball?

NH: I am definitely not ruling it out for the future, but for where I am right now in my life, USA ball is exactly where I want to be.

JW: After Team USA’s games are done for the year, what are your non-softball career plans?

NH: I still have a semester left at Mizzou. In December, I will graduate with a BA in Graphic Design. I am also considering going the coaching route. I find it hard to imagine a life without softball.

JW: Say you were Aladdin and the genie agreed to grant you three wishes. What would you ask for?

NH: A 27-inch iMac with unlimited Adobe Creative Suit access (I’m a design nerd), an online shopping spree, and more time to spend with those I love.

JW: Who would play you in a movie about your life?

NH: Oh geeze, this is a hard one. I would have to say Jennifer Lawrence because she fell on her face at the Oscars and I fell on my face on ESPN. I’m sure we can relate to each other.

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