By: Hayven Bevan
The first batter steps into the box and the umpire signals the pitcher for the first pitch to be thrown. “Strike!” Yells the umpire, and the game has begun. Two more strikes and the batter is out. It is just another day on the mound for one of College of the Canyons’s starting pitchers, Collin Dudley.
The first time Dudley ever picked up a baseball was at the young age of four. His journey began when he joined Little League, and his parents gave him the choice to continue on or quit. He chose the latter and hasn’t even thought of looking back since. From Little League to the six travel ball teams Dudley competed on, he has found himself up against some of the best in the state. In high school, Dudley started off on junior varsity as a freshmen and quickly worked his way up to varsity in only a single year, competing against 17 and 18 year olds when he was just 15. He often switched between pitching and manning third base, but his skills on the mound lead him to a starting position as pitcher his senior year of high school. After high school, there was no question that Dudley would decide to continue on to play at a higher level, thus his real journey began.
“Being at COC was truly a great experience for me because it was the place where I was able to really develop myself as a baseball player,” Dudley said. Although through his determination, Dudley was able to grow and become a better player, it was not as smooth as a start as he would have hoped. His first year at COC, Dudley struggled with inter-squad games, as well as other less regulated practice games, during which he started notice a growing pain developing in his elbow that would eventually lead to surgery. In February, 2014, Dudley underwent Ulnar Nerve Transportation Surgery; surgeons moved the Ulnar Nerve from the canal in his elbow, so that the inflammation that was in the elbow could no longer pinch the nerve. After enduring a long four months of an intense physical therapy and an even longer recovery process, Dudley was able to play summer ball and start training to get back to where he had left off. Once he returned to the team, Dudley was unsure of his position. He started off doing well in the fall season and working his way to be a relief pitcher, but it wasn’t until COC’s number one starter got injured that Dudley was given the opportunity to prove that his injury would not hold him back.
After a few demonstrations of his abilities, there was no question that Dudley was going to make an impact, and so Dudley became COC’s third starting pitcher. He performed well in the first couple games of the season, but it wasn’t until COC faced Orange Coast College, California’s defending state champs. Dudley shut them out for eight straight innings, not a single player from OCC could get a hit. “That was where my confidence really boosted and where I felt unstoppable,” said Dudley. Continuing to impress, the game against OCC wasn’t the only shutout Dudley had, he threw a no hitter against Citrus Community College, “that was one of my proudest moments at COC.” Dudley’s perseverance made him polish off his last year at COC with a 2.47 ERA, 58 strikeouts, only 15 walks in 76. innings, and a 5-2 record overall. This won’t be the last of Dudley though, when asked what his future plans were he said “I’ve been receiving a lot of phone calls and offers from different schools but I’m not deciding until after the draft.”
Being an athlete is not only physically demanding but also mentally demanding, if one doesn’t have the right support they may never reach their full potential. Thankfully Dudley is blessed with one of the greatest support systems of all, “my friends and family always encouraged me and pushed me to keep going and always compete. That love and encouragement made me who I am today,” said Dudley. His dad, Joe Dudley, who has been his biggest influence throughout his journey, has constantly pushed him, working with him almost every weekend, and always being his number one fan. “It’s not quite enough to say just how proud I am of him, I’m not sure there’s enough words to really describe how proud I am. Baseball has been a large part of our lives since Collin was four years old, I have had a front row seat in watching him develop, to see his determination to succeed grow and his toughness in difficult situations, these are also tremendous life lessons. I have also had to learn a balance in just how far to push him, I’ve seen too many Fathers push too far and their child walk away.The really interesting side for me in having played baseball myself to a high level and to witness just how much better he has become than I ever was is for a father just indescribable,” said Joe Dudley. With a support system like this, it’s hard not to want to succeed and keep making everyone proud.
From his t-ball days to deciding on what D1 university to go to, Dudley has accomplished so much in his baseball career, as well as overcoming several difficult obstacles. Though Dudley is leaving COC to further his baseball career even more, it’s safe to say that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Collin Dudley.