By Scotty Rouse
When Joe Hudak founded the Piedmont Pride baseball team two years ago, he had no idea that he would be leaving his job as the Area Director of the Piedmont Fellowship of Christian Athletes to start a new Christian baseball ministry called Kingsmen Baseball. Hudak, the former Head Baseball Coach at Winthrop University and Pitching Coach at Mississippi State University, will step down from his FCA post on November 30. Below is a Q&A with Hudak.
Q: Why did you choose to leave FCA to start Kingsmen Baseball?
A: The last two years of the Piedmont Pride baseball team have had a tremendous impact on the players, the community, and on me personally. After seeing the impact that just one team had, I felt led to try to multiply that impact. I started wondering how much greater the impact would be if we had 5 or 6 summer teams instead of 1, and if we took 8-10 mission trips instead of just 2. I knew for that to happen, I needed to be able to focus all my time and effort on the baseball ministry.
Q: When did you know that it was time to leave FCA and commit to Kingsmen Baseball full-time?
A: I really felt the Lord nudging me after the 2015 Pride season. It just seemed like everything that was happening around me was pointing to starting this baseball ministry. I told the Lord that I would go for it, and asked Him that if He didn’t want me to do it to just slam the door in my face. The opposite has been true. It’s seemed like almost every door has swung wide open. He brought too many other like-minded people into the mix that clearly is not just coincidence. I knew in July of 2016 that I needed to move in that direction. I just didn’t know when. It became clear to me the weekend of September 17-18 that it was time to go, so I turned in my notice to FCA on September 19.
Q: What is your short-term goal for Kingsmen Baseball?
A: Well, I have two of them. The first is to put a second college team in the SCBL. The league wants to expand, so I’m looking at putting a second team in the league in 2017. The second short-term goal is to expand the number of baseball mission trips we take and the destinations for those trips. I hope to take some coaches mission trips as well.
Q: Do you have any ideas for the name of the new college team?
A: I’m thinking of calling it the Palmetto Pride, to go along with the Piedmont Pride.
Q: How about your long-term goals?
A: My long term goals are pretty substantial. I’d like to build our own baseball complex with four synthetic turf fields, a dorm for our players to stay in during the summer, and a couple of small indoor hitting/multipurpose buildings. The goal would be to host college and travel ball tournaments year-round, and use the money from those tournaments to fund 5-6 summer mission teams. I’d like to have 2-3 college summer teams, and 2-3 high school age travel teams. I’d also like to get to the point where we have 8-10 mission trips for players and coaches throughout the year.
Q: Those are some pretty lofty goals. Do you think you will be able to attain them?
A: Well, we figure the complex will cost around $8Million. I heard someone quote D. L. Moody when he said, “Your vision has to be so big that it’s doomed to failure unless God is in it.” I guess that sums it up pretty well. Our goal with this entire ministry and complex is to honor the Lord. As I said before, I asked Him to slam the door in my face if He didn’t want me to do for it, and that hasn’t happened yet. I honestly believe He will honor this goal by providing the funds to build it.
Q: What has the response been as you’ve share your vision for Kingsmen Baseball?
A: It has truly been amazing! I’ve met with a lot of people inside and outside our community. I’ve met with both private citizens and public officials. The response has been very, very positive. That’s so important, because a project of this magnitude will not happen without the support of a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life. If you are a man or woman who truly loves the Lord, who truly wants to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and who truly cares about impacting young people, it’s pretty hard not to get excited about this ministry.
Q: What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with the Kingsmen Baseball Ministry?
A: That question may be the easiest one to answer. Our ultimate goal is to help our players and coaches grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This will help them become better husbands, better fathers, and better members of their community. Our second goal is to help them become the best baseball players they can be. Even though we are a faith-based team, we will work hard, play hard, play the right way, and play to win. Thirdly, we want to give back to our community. We want to serve our community, especially the kids. Finally, we want to give our guys the opportunity to serve and share the gospel in another country.
Q: One final question. Obviously, the Pride is a faith-based Christian organization. Do you require your players to be Christians or sign a statement of faith like some other similar organizations do?
A: We do not require that. Over the past two years, we have had 50 players from 15 different states and countries. They are not only all over the map physically, but they have been all over the map spiritually as well. We have had both Protestants and Catholics. We have had some players who are strong Christians, and we’ve had some who only speak Jesus’ name when they are angry. Our goal for all of our players is to understand what it really means to be a Christian. It’s not a list of rules and regulations, but it’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Our players just need to know and respect who we are and what we do, and need to be able to live within our guidelines.