NEW BRITAIN - Outside of Goodwin Tech, it was a cold November Thursday morning but right through the doors inside the gymnasium lobby it was nothing but warmth as the Gladiators star pitcher, Tommy Hughes, felt right at home, signing the papers to play collegiate baseball at Southern Connecticut State University.
Alongside his mom, Dianne, his head coach Joe Granja and his teammates, Hughes saw what he had been dreaming of since he was young come to fruition.
“It’s a special day,” Hughes said. “I’ve been working towards this since I started playing baseball when I was little. I honestly had no clue that it would be Southern. It all happened really fast. I jelled well with the coach, I love the school and I love the program and I think it will be a really cool fit.”
“It’s indescribable,” Dianne said. “It’s something that I know he’s worked hard for. His dad and I have supported him in whatever he wanted to do baseball wise. He’s a hard worker and it’s his love.”
His mom being there to share the moment with him made it extra special.
“I know she’s been wanting this for a long time,” Hughes said. “Being able to give this to her and to the rest of my family is really special.”
At home, Hughes’s passion for the game of baseball was evident from the start as he would be out early in the morning practicing and honing his craft. That hard work was shown on a special day for Hughes during his sophomore season at Goodwin Tech when he threw a no-hitter for the Gladiators against Vinal Tech on April 13, 2016.
“First and foremost [Tommy is] a great kid,” Granja said. “He comes from a great family. His older brother played for me so I’ve known the family for about six years now and he’s just grown as an athlete. He came in as a little kid and has grown into a very strong young man.”
With the commitment to Southern Connecticut, he is the first Goodwin Tech baseball player to commit to a program of that level.
Though the school has sent other players to Division III schools and junior colleges, sending a player to a Division II program represents a good day for the Gladiators baseball program.
“He’s a hard working kid who always wants to get better and is always looking to improve,” Granja said. “We always talk in the offseason about what the players can improve on and every time I talk to him about what he needs to work on he’s always worked on that to get better. His drive to improve and get better has taken place here every year.”
While the success has been there for Hughes, as his head coach was quick to note, the senior is always looking for a way to get better both on and off the baseball diamond. And those around him see Southern Connecticut State as a school that is not only getting a talented baseball player, but an even better person and leader.
“He’s got a smile that never stops,” Hughes’ mother said of her son. “The smile you see on his face is all the time. He’s happy but he knows what his priorities are and knows what he needs to do to succeed and as his mom, I’m just so proud of him.”
And after Hughes put pen to paper, it was time to get back to work. After all, helping Goodwin Tech win a conference championship and making a deep postseason run with his Goodwin Tech teammates is the priority for Hughes in his upcoming senior season.
“We’re all very close,” Hughes said of his teammates. “It’s more of a family. It’s a great group of kids overall.”
Southern Connecticut State is certainly getting one.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan