By Dennis Garcia
The Coastal Plain League is filled with players from all over the country. Players from big-name schools like the University of North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Seton Hall, West Virginia, East Carolina, Tennessee and other Division I programs dominate the rosters.
However, a player doesn't have to attend one of the bigger universities or colleges in the country to have a big impact on a CPL team. There are many players from Div. II, Div. III, NAIA, Junior Colleges or even Community Colleges who enjoy success against players from the bigger schools.
Hudson Chastain, a junior from Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., is coming from a Div. III program to help the Asheboro Copperheads fight for a Petitt Cup championship.
"I have been looking forward to it since I got the news I would be going," said Chastain, who was recommended to the Copperheads by his assistant coach Landon Steiner, a former Copperhead assistant coach. "I know I have the ability to hit there and play up there. There may be a little bit of that stigma at first because of where I play, but I will fight for my spot to prove that. It will be a challenge."
Transylvania, the first university in the state of Kentucky, is a member of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, and like all NCAA programs, had this season cut short from the coronavirus.
Chastain, a 5-11, 165-pound infielder/outfielder from Knoxville, Tenn., was rocking opposing pitchers to the tune of a .447 batting average in the Pioneers' first 11 games. He was 21-for-47 with nine runs scored, two doubles, one triple, one home run, 15 runs scored and two stolen bases. In his last four games, he was 13-for-18 with three runs scored and eight RBIs. He struck out just twice all season in 47 at-bats.
"It was hard because you feel like you just got it going," Chastain said. "I spent the first week trying to get it going. Then I felt like I could do it all year. It was getting back to a normal approach. Being a little older on a good hitting team, I felt I needed to be a leader and I may have been trying too hard to do too much early on."
Once he got comfortable, he continued his stellar collegiate career. As a freshman at Transylvania, Chastain appeared in 39 games and was named All-HCAC honorable mention. He led the team in at-bats (145), runs (34), total hits (43) and RBIs (25). He was second on the team in batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.406) and sixth on the team in slugging (.359). He drew a team-high 26 walks and was third with 11 stolen bases.
As a sophomore, he hit .409 (70-for-171) with 12 doubles, 30 runs scored and 36 RBIs. He had 15 stolen bases and struck out just 17 times in 186 plate appearances.
"Our organization does not discriminate at any level of college baseball, simply because your 'level' doesn't always determine your talent, heart or desire for the game of baseball," Asheboro General Manager and Head Coach Keith Ritsche said. "I have the highest respect for all levels of college baseball and talent. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way and In doing so, your team and teammates will be positively impacted by your greatness. The best player will always make an impact regardless of potential or not. If you can ball out, you can ball out."
In high school, Chastain led Christian Academy of Knoxville to a 39-5 record and the Tennessee 2017 AA State Championship. As a senior, he started all 44 games and recorded 63 hits, 47 runs, 19 doubles and 34 RBIs. He garnered plenty of awards as he was named the 2017 District 4-AA MVP, earned First Team All-District, First Team All-Region, First Team Prep Xtra and was his team's Mr. Baseball honor, Golden Glove winner and Warrior Leadership/Character Award winner for males..
He was a four-year member of the varsity program, starting three years. He also claimed numerous academic awards along with his athletic honors.
Chastain, who spent a part of the summer after his freshman season playing in New York, didn't play last summer, instead deciding to work on an internship for a law firm. He said he is currently working out in a makeshift gym in his garage.
"I am pumped, I can't wait," Chastain said. "I'm excited to meet new guys. I'm excited just to play baseball."
And maybe carry the flag for all smaller-school players.
"Landon told me you are going to have to fight for your spot and work hard and once you get it, work even harder," Chastain said. "He said it was one of the most fun times in his life. He said there was no better place to be and I'm really excited about it. It's still baseball and you have to have to have fun. I will be motivated."
Chastain does go to a school, like he said, "that sounds like one where vampires go to," but he certainly is planning on making a lot of noise this summer in a Copperheads uniform.
"You can evaluate talent any way you want to....DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, JUCO, if you have what it takes, you will impress and perform," Ritsche said. "I was a DIII kid out of a small town in Wisconsin where there were no scouts and competed against power 5 schools in the Northwoods League for three years with good results. Not that I need praise for doing so, but all I'm saying is it can be done and it will happen for any level player if you want to succeed bad enough."
Chastain certainly has that desire and the work ethic to succeed.