Park City woman baseball player moves to college softball
Lexie Hudgens signed with a junior college softball team based in Virginia Beach
Lexie Hudgens grew up as one of the guys. Her older brother was a baseball player who played on the Park City High team, and it only seemed natural that she would follow in his footsteps.
Hudgens received attention for starting at shortstop for Park City’s varsity baseball team last season, being the rare girl to opt to play baseball instead of softball. Having a girl on the baseball team wasn’t new at Park City, either, as Taylor Lundbeck was also on the team in 2018.
Now, after graduating, Hudgens is heading across the country to Virginia Beach, Virginia, to continue her career – just as a softball player.
There was a time where none of this seemed possible.
Two years ago, the baseball team was training during the offseason at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse. A ball came off the wall and flew back at Hudgens, striking her in the head and giving her a severe concussion. Miners coach David Feasler called it “the worst baseball injury I’ve ever seen.”
The concussion wiped out the entire season for Hudgens, and there was the possibility that she would never come back from it. Hudgens thought about switching to softball or just dropping the whole thing entirely.
“After that, I was kind of gun shy and I just wasn’t really sure if I wanted to push through and keep playing, but I’m super glad I did because I learned a lot from that experience,” Hudgens said. “Like just that you can’t really control what happens, you can control how you react.”
Hudgens elected to return to baseball, but that didn’t mean that the process was easy.
“It was tough, man,” Feasler said. “It was like she’s going to every doctor imaginable trying to figure out, you know, how she can get better and how she can get back into sports and then the psychological part of getting back into sports.”
A year later, the coronavirus pandemic canceled the season. Now, as a senior, Hudgens had one more year to make it all work.
A few games into their 2021 campaign, the Miners were having issues with errors, and it was clear they needed to make a change.
“We were struggling with infield play, and we just determined as a coaching staff probably eight to 10 games into it, like, let’s put Lexie there, let’s give her a shot,” assistant coach Matt Strader said. “From that first game… we knew she was one of our better infielders.”
Out of the nine Park City players who faced at least 30 total chances in the field, Hudgens had the fourth-highest fielding percentage (.964). She also helped turn five double plays, plus a diving play to keep the ball in the infield and nab the lead runner at second.
“That was pretty cool, that was probably the highlight of the year for me,” she said.
Defense was always one of her best attributes, and she played in a defense-only role for the Miners. Her skills quickly earned the respect of her teammates and opponents.
“When she would be out there starting at shortstop, the other teams would just be like, ‘Whoa, that’s a girl playing shortstop,’” Strader said. “And then she would make plays, and everybody would be clapping. She’s the infield leader on our team.”
Feasler touted Hudgens’ baseball IQ and work ethic, a must for a shortstop.
“Very quiet, introverted, but has a good personality once she kind of opens up to you,” he said. “Everybody’s favorite teammate I would say, like, hardest worker in the room, smartest baseball I know, just one of the better kids I’ve had the pleasure of coaching.”
Hudgens never felt like the outsider on the team. Sure, if the team went on a road trip, she had to sleep by herself, but the guys that made up the Park City squad were her closest friends, bonds that will last a lifetime.
“It was kind of just, like, more of like a family,” Hudgens said. “Like, I never really felt alone, like, I felt really close to everybody on that team.
“I think I’m pretty proud of how everything happened and just the relationships I built more than the actual baseball. Like I know that I’ll have the players and coaches in my life forever, which is something pretty special.”
But after four years, it was time for her to move on.
Moving to softball
Hudgens realized there wasn’t much of a path for her to play college baseball. Opportunities for women are minimal, and being on the smaller side, she didn’t see a way for her to be truly competitive.
She started looking at playing softball by joining a travel team in Salt Lake City and found out that she loved it much like the way she loved baseball. Then, Hudgens started to find her way onto colleges’ radars.
One problem: Not enough exposure or experience. Some coaches didn’t like that she had minimal time playing softball.
“It was definitely hit or miss,” she said. “I’m not too worried about that, like the lack of exposure just because I feel like I’ve been given a great opportunity with lots of competitiveness playing baseball, which I think has put me in a better spot than if I played softball growing up.”
Hudgens eventually found a new home at Bryant & Stratton College, a junior college in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The prospect of playing a new-ish sport at the junior college level while traveling across the country is challenging, but Hudgens is up for the task.
“I actually have family over there, so I wanted to move closer to them and kind of just get out of Park City and just explore a bit,” she said. “Maybe just try something new, completely different.”
While baseball and softball are similar sports, they’re not exactly the same. There’s no guarantee that her baseball skills will transfer over.
For one, Hudgens will have to hit now, something she didn’t do for the Miners. In softball, where the ball comes out underhanded and the pitchers start closer to the batter, pitches behave differently, not to mention the decreased reaction time. Strader mentioned that he’s heard good things about her hitting with the travel team.
“That’s the question with Lexi, right?” Feasler said. “I think she’ll be fine. She played in a super competitive region against big boys, right? And she’s going to play college softball, I’m sure it’s uber competitive out there, but she’ll do a good job of adjusting to it.”
But there’s no denying that Hudgens’ glove will continue to come in handy. Her fast reaction times and sprawling dives will be useful now that she’s playing closer to the batter with less reaction time. Her high school coaches are confident in her abilities moving forward.
“She’s going to kill it,” Feasler said. “She’s going to go dominate that conference for a year or two and then play Division I softball.”
While she’s spent her athletic career being “one of the guys,” there is some comfort and excitement in moving to playing against girls for once.
“It’s definitely going to be different than baseball, but I’m excited to kind of have a more level playing field for sure,” Hudgens said. “I think there’s going to be some challenges, but I think other things are going to be a little easier, so I’m excited. I like challenge, so I’m ready for it.”
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The Miners were 9-8 last season.