Much of what you need to know about Wild Things second baseman Shaine Hughes is that the guy knows how to make a good first impression.
Hughes, who is in his first year with the Wild Things, spent the initial week of the season on the bench, waiting for his opportunity. That finally came in Washington’s home opener May 17 against Lake Erie and the lefty hitter from Sewell, N.J., was ready. Hughes tied a team record for hits in a game by going 5-for-5 with a home run and a stolen base.
And Hughes hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering the Wild Things’ game Saturday night against Florence, Hughes was leading the Frontier League with a .375 batting average.
It has been the kind of start that not even former Wild Things pitcher Frank Trimarco (2017-18) could have expected from his college teammate at Monmouth University.
“Shaine was recommended to us by Frank Timarco. He told us that Shaine is a polished hitter and has a good approach at the plate,” Wild Things general manager Tony Buccilli recalled.
Hughes has always been able to hit. He is among the top five all-time in several offensive categories at Monmouth but the question was where could he play on defense at the professional level? Hughes played first base and third base at Monmouth, but at 6-0 and 195 pounds, Hughes is smaller than what major league organizations look for in corner infielders.
“The question we had is where does he fit in defensively?” Buccilli admitted. “At Monmouth, he was at third base 80 percent of the time.”
Finding a position Hughes could be comfortable playing is one reason his season got off to a casual start. He had only one at-bat on a six-game road trip to start the season.
“I had to wait my turn, wait to get my shot,” Hughes said.
Hughes finally got his shot when manager Gregg Langbehn inserted him into the starting lineup as Washington’s designated hitter for the home opener.
“On the first road trip, I took time in batting practice and in the (batting) cage to work on my swing. My swing wasn’t totally there and that practice time really prepared me for my first start,” Hughes said.
The five-hit game was the first as a pro for Hughes but it wasn’t his best day at the plate. During his college days, Hughes went 10-for-12 in a doubleheader against Manhattan.
“That was a fun day,” he said.
After his playing days at Monmouth ended last spring, Hughes hoped to be drafted but his name was never called by a major league team. He was determined to keep playing, so he attempted to hook on with an independent team. He sent a flood of emails, attended a tryout with Rockland of the Cam-Am League and went to a showcase for independent teams in Florida. He did well at the latter two, which led to a shot in California with the Martinez Clippers of the Pacific Association.
At Martinez, Hughes played in 42 games and batted .331 with nine home runs and even played some second base, which is where he has settled in with Washington. One of Hughes’ coaches at Martinez was former Wild Things manager Bart Zeller.
Hughes was hopeful of signing with the Wild Things late last season, but that deal was put on hold until the offseason.
“I like third base more, but as long as my name is on the lineup card, I don’t care what position I’m playing,” Hughes said.
Troy Terzi, who was signed by Washington on Friday and made his Wild Things debut as the starting pitcher that night against Florence, informed team officials via text message Saturday morning that he “quit.” Terzi was the losing pitcher, giving up six hits and two walks in four innings during a 4-0 loss. He was placed on the suspended list.