Hughes family builds life around baseball

Published: May. 20, 2019 at 9:57 PM CDT
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Every move for the Hughes family brought the same things. Another new coaching job for Pete. And another backyard to examine closely.

"That backyard had to be conducive to solid wiffle ball conditions," Kansas State head coach Pete Hughes said.

Before either of his two current college baseball-playing sons in KSU's Thomas Hughes, LSU's Dom Hughes or the future Wildcat in Dom Hughes ever started starring their way to Division I careers, they were worried about beating each other in wiffle ball.

"We would have like a fantasy draft before the summer," Dom said of picking players."We'd write them all down and then play like as each of those players and keep their stats."

"And by the end of the summer, we were playing like 60-game wiffle ball seasons," Thomas said.

"Thomas was the one we were always trying to beat," Hal said.

"It ended in a bunch of fights, ended in a bunch of tears," Dom said.

Those emotions only helped build the future players they'd become. Those and the constant presence they had in their dad's dugouts, as he's moved to seven different states for coaching jobs. The boys would take part in batting practice or field ground balls because they wanted to, not because they were told to.

"Just cause I do it doesn't mean you have to do it," Thomas said, recalling his dad's words. "And we always kind of laugh at him when he says that because it's ridiculous. It's something we love to do more than anything."

"There's nothing like raising your kids up in your dugout and around that atmosphere," Pete said.

"Being around so many good baseball players, I feel like that's what made me a better baseball player," Dom said. "But it definitely got me used to some bad language too."

The Hughes boys' games are clean though. Thomas is finishing up his college career at Kansas State after playing for his father at Oklahoma. Before Dom gets to start doing it next year, Thomas has been the only Hughes child to play for Pete at any level of baseball.

"He's going to be a little harder on me that way," Thomas said. "And I like that. I wouldn't want to play for him if he was going to treat me any differently than anybody else."

"I'll never feel that amount of enjoyment, no matter where this game takes me and that includes Omaha, than the three years I got to coach with my son in the same dugout," Pete said.

There was a part of Hal that wanted to experience that. But something else led the sophomore to one of the premier college baseball programs in the country at LSU.

"I kind of knew for a while that I wanted to do my own thing," Hal said. "I kind of wanted to get away from home. It's really hard being away from home, being away from my family because we're so close. But it's been a great decision and I'm glad I did it, even though I would've loved to play for my dad."

That's something Dom will get to do next year. He stayed in Georgia, where Pete served as a volunteer coach at UGA before coming to K-State, to finish his high school career.

The next Hughes college baseball player said some advice from the oldest one in Thomas helped lead him to sign with his dad.

"It's just about who you play for and the relationships you build along the way," Dom said Thomas told him. "That really stuck with me because I wanted to play for the best person I could possibly play for in my dad."

"I'll start next year by putting my third son through college by putting a baseball uniform on," Pete said. "That's unbelievable to me."

Just as unbelievable as how the Hughes family, which also includes Pete's wife Debby, another son in P.J. and a daughter in Grace, stays so close with everyone so spread out. It's done through an active group text, a whole lot of travel and a loving mother.

"My wife Deb just keeps everybody on the same page," Pete said. "She's got more frequent flyer miles than anyone, I promise you."

"He came up for our Sweet Sixteen game the other week," Dom said. "I hit a go-ahead home run that game. Going up to him after the game, it was pretty special because he got to be there to see it."

"They need feedback from their dad, whether I'm in Kansas or he's in Georgia or Hal is at Louisiana State," Pete said. "I watch all of the LSU games, even on replay."

"He really just tries to help me get in the right frame of mind, just kind of gives me a couple things to think about during the game," Hal said.

"It just means the world, the support that he gives all of us," Dom said.

And that's what keeps Pete Hughes going in the pursuit he wakes up every day thinking about: how to get to Omaha for the College World Series.

But even if he never makes it there, he'll have something that's made it across wiffle ball fields and college baseball stadiums: family.

"If there's a kitchen and a family room and a baseball field and we're together, that's how we've handled every situation."

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