Twins Infielder Luke Hughes Unfiltered

On April 28, 2010 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Luke Hughes stepped into a major league batter’s box for the first time, leading off the 3rd inning against Tigers righthander Max Scherzer. The 25-year-old proceeded to muscle a Scherzer offering over the righfield wall for a homerun. He became just the 5th Twin - and first since Andre David in 1984 - to accomplish that unique feat.

While Disney couldn’t have scripted a better beginning, reality soon set in. Hughes was optioned back to Rochester later that week and ended up sidelined for most of the season with a sports hernia. His first taste of the major leagues was over after just two games.

Thanks to his versatility and the Twins rash of injuries in 2011 however, Hughes has spent the bulk of this season with the big club. The Australian and I connected for a brief discussion during the Detroit series last week at Target Field.

DZ: Could you just talk about your season in general? It’s been a pretty big year for you, you’ve gotten a lot more major league experience.

HUGHES: Definitely. Obviously, it’s been a great experience so far - where the team has come from and getting an opportunity to play a lot more. It was disappointing last year, getting hurt and missing most of the season. It’s been a lot of fun making that climb back into the division race - we’re not too far back. We’ve got a good chance to pick up a couple more games in the next few days. Hopefully that will put us right where we need to be for the last month and a half of the season.

DZ: You’re a guy who has played a lot of different positions….where are you most comfortable?

HUGHES: I’ve played most of my baseball over the years at second base. I grew up playing short - actually grew up as a catcher - and then moved over to short. I was kind of a little bit smaller then - I hadn’t actually grown yet - so I started playing infield. I signed as a shortstop, came over to America to the Twins as a shortstop, slowly made my way around the field to second base. I kind of feel the most comfortable there. Obviously, I’ve played basically every position throughout the minor leagues - except for catcher. It’s definitely been fun. And then this year, learning a new position, playing first base for the first time. It’s been fun having Morny kind of help me through it -it’s been fantastic having his knowledge and the way he plays the game and having him kind of filter all of his knowledge over to me.

DZ: Obviously, you’re from Australia and Americans have always had a fascination with Australia, even if they don’t always get everything right. Where does baseball rank in popularity in Australia?

HUGHES: It’s definitely a second tier sport down there. We have cricket which is most dominant - especially in the summer time - Australian rules football and rugby as well. It’s hard to compete with those sports. At the same time, we are trying to push it on the public. We’ve got a winter ball league up and running for our pro guys to go back and have an opportunity to play 40 more games during the big league offseason. It’s fantastic, it’s great for the sport of baseball - obviously we’ve got a long way to go to get the support. I am trying to push it as much as I can, get other big leaguers that are from Australia to fly back and promote the sport. Guys like Trent Oeltjen, Grant Balfour, Brad Thomas - there are probably 7 or 8 guys in the big leagues at the moment. It’s good, it’s progressing (and) hopefully we can just build it up a little bit stronger.

DZ: How did you get into baseball?

HUGHES: My parents’ best friend’s son was a few years older than me and obviously, I wanted to do whatever he wanted to do. He played tee ball, I played tee ball, he went into baseball and I just followed along. That’s actually how I just kind of started playing the sport. It just kind of progressed from there.

DZ: There’s been a decent amount of Australian players now, but it seems like, for the most part, they’ve been pitchers. Is there any reason for that?

HUGHES: I don’t know. Obviously with position players - there are a lot more of them going around. On the pitching side of things, it’s been a little bit stronger with our pitchers. There’s been a few (position) guys throughout the years get an opportunity to play - Justin Huber played a little bit with San Diego, the Twins and Kansas City, Glenn Williams is another Australian guy - one of my good friends - who got an opportunity to play in the big leagues with the Twins as well and Trent Oeltjen is over there with the Dodgers. But, there hasn’t been a lot - I think out of 29 or 30 guys that have it made it to the major leagues out of Australia - probably 75, 80% of them have been pitchers. Obviously, we’d love to change that. I’d love to see a few more of these position players move through the ranks. We’ve got a young kid at Triple A Liam Hendriks, who played in the Futures Game. He’s going to be up here with the Twins at some stage during the next year or two. It’s exciting to see guys like that progress through the system.

DZ: A goofy, off beat question about Australia: do people really drink Fosters over there?

HUGHES: Not at all (laughs). No one drinks it…whoever did the promotional side of things did a great job, but not too many people actually drink it.

DZ: Who are the most popular athletes in Australia?

HUGHES: Probably the cricketers. We had a great, very strong cricket team for a long time in the 90s and 2000s, so obviously they’re pretty prominent around there. Lauren Jackson is doing a great job playing for Seattle and she’s done, obviously, fantastic for women’s basketball in Australia. We’ve got some guys floating around in NASCAR and some golfers as well. Jason Day has come through really huge in the last year or two over here and made a name for himself. There are a lot of Aussies floating around and I try to stay in touch through the news and stuff like that - it’s always good to see an Aussie doing well.

DZ: One last thing, before this year, you were most known for hitting a homerun in your first major league at bat. Where is that bat and ball right now?

HUGHES: It’s at my parent’s house. I’ve got the ball in a nice, little frame/container thing. I’ve got the bat up on my dad’s bar. I gave it to them, so I could share it with my family. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here today without them. They’ve helped me through all of the ups and downs of my sporting career…I talk to them all of the time.

See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:

July 19: Glen Perkins
July 17: Ben Revere
July 3: Scott Baker
June 13: Rene Rivera
June 10: Nick Blackburn
June 2: Trevor Plouffe
May 31: Phil Dumatrait
May 28: Justin Morneau
May 24: Denard Span
May 1: Jim Hoey
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 19: Jeff Manship
April 15: Dusty Hughes

One Response to “Twins Infielder Luke Hughes Unfiltered”

  1. MinnesotaSCORE » Jason Kubel Unfiltered Says:

    […] 26: Luke Hughes July 19: Glen Perkins July 17: Ben Revere July 3: Scott Baker June 13: Rene Rivera June 10: Nick […]

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