MOUNT BERRY, Ga. — As the gears of America's pastime begin to lurch into motion once again, the Berry College baseball team was happy to welcome back to campus former Vikings pitcher and now World Series Champion with the Houston Astros, Collin McHugh, on Tuesday.
"We're super happy to have Collin back to reconnect with our team and program," Berry's head baseball coach David Beasley said, "We couldn't be more happy for his success. Everyone in our program lives through his accomplishments."
McHugh was drafted out of Berry College by the New York Mets in the 18th round of the 2008 draft after spending three years pitching for the Vikings. While at Berry, he made 42 appearances on the mound and collected 167 career strikeouts, a mark that still ranks top 10 all-time in Berry baseball history. After entering the majors, he bounced around and made stops on more than 15 different major and minor league teams before landing in the Houston Astros' rotation. Since arriving in Houston four seasons ago, McHugh has accumulated a 48-28 pitching record, more than 560 strikeouts and helped the Astros to the team's first World Series Championship last season.
"It's been great," McHugh said, recalling the aftermath of arguably one of the best World Series in MLB history. "This had a big impact on the community. When we got back, there were a million people downtown for the parade and it was a pretty overwhelming experience. To see that much collective joy in one place after the rough year that Houston had was really special."
Many big-leaguers spend the Hot Stove season improving their craft away from their respective teams before spring training, but McHugh always finds time to return to Berry.
"This is where I really cut my teeth on how to play and how to pitch, and really take my game to the next level," McHugh said. "So I've always had a special place in my heart not only for coach Beasley, but for the whole staff and the organization."
McHugh had the opportunity to meet with the current Vikings baseball team on Tuesday morning, sharing his experiences since leaving campus.
"Just knowing that someone who went through the same things that we go through now and understanding that he got through them to get to the highest level and be successful is really cool," senior catcher for Berry, Jacob Delk, said. "It inspires the guys on the team to work harder."
"Berry has always been an amazing campus," McHugh said. "To be able to come back to spend time with the team, with [coach Beasley] and the guys this morning was fantastic. It's been almost a decade since I've been out of here, so there's a new crop of players now but it's fun to see that the spirit of Berry baseball just hasn't changed. It's still a great group of guys focused on academics, building character and growing as men."
McHugh will soon look ahead to his fifth season with the Astros organization when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13th.
Collin McHugh with the 2018 Berry College baseball team