Chris Hudson's .344 batting average is good enough to put him in contention for the Carolina League batting lead. But his impressive hitting for the Alexandria Mariners has not improved his status as the team's second-string catcher.
Hudson was told before the season by Manager Bobby Floyd and others in the parent Seattle Mariners' organization, that 18-year-old bonus baby Dave Valle, the team's second pick in the 1978 June draft, would do most of the catching. But Hudson, 23, hopes his steady bat will earn him a starting spot.
At the close of the first half Thursday, Hudson was tied with Peninsula's Tom Lombarski for the league's best batting average, but was 41 short of the 189 plate appearances required to qualify for the official title. Valle hit .198 for the first half.
Hudson, a graduate of Suitland High School and the University of Maryland, knows that few in the Seattle organization expected him to be playing this year. After batting .229 for the independent Alexandria Dukes last season, Hudson was not offered a contract when Seattle absorbed the club into its farm system.
Hudson used $500 of his own money to travel from his District Heights home to the Mariners' training camp in Tempe, Ariz., where his impressive showing earned him a contract and reimbursement for his expenses.
"Sitting in the dugout's a pain, but the game's still fun," said Hudson, who earned a degree in marketing at Maryland. "They haven't told me I can't hit. They're just carrying out the decisions they made about what to do with certain people. I'm someone they didn't even count on."
Hudson has been used a a substitute for injured players and in double headers. Valle missed the first month of the season with injuries and lately Hudson has been platooned in left field.
Hudson debuted Wednesday at first base and is comtemplating practicing at third in an effort to increase his playing time.
Hudson attributes his improved hitting to swinging at only an ideal first pitch.
"Last year, I got in the habit of swinging on the first pitch," he said. "Now, I really cut the strike zone down. When these pitchers get behind, they usually come in with something fat."
Floyd said Hudson needs to work on some facets of his catching, but his versatility is an asset. As a utility infiedlder who played little in seven major league seasons, Floyd appreciates Hudson's acceptance of his role.
"I've told him that Dave Valle's going to do most of the catching. You have to go with your player-development program. He (Hudson) has exhibited nothing but class. That makes it easier on me." CAPTION: Picture, Mariner Chris Hudson hopes to earn a starting spot. By Fred Sweets - The Washington Post