POPLARVILLE – The site was historic Fenway Park in Boston. The date was April 24, 2010. Thirty minutes before the Baltimore Orioles played the Boston Red Sox, 27-year-old Rhyne Hughes was going through his usual pre-game exercises.”I looked around the stadium and tried to take it all in,” said Hughes, who was about to make his major league debut. “I thought to myself, if I never make it back, I can say I finally made. It”s something I dreamed about since I was a little kid and here I am – in the big leagues.”Hughes, a first baseman and Picayune native, delivered right away, singling in a run in his first at-bat in the second inning against the Red Sox. They stopped the game and threw the baseball into the Orioles dugout. It was in his locker when the game was over. He finished the night 2-for-5.Altogether, he spent three weeks with the Orioles this summer before getting sent back down to Baltimore”s Triple-A team in Norfolk, Va.The best may be yet to come for this former Pearl River Community College All-American, who hopes to make the Orioles” roster next season.Hughes” accomplishments on the baseball diamond have earned him a place in the college”s Sports Hall of Fame. He will be inducted Saturday, Oct. 23, during 2010 Homecoming festivities on the Pearl River campus.”My time at Pearl River was two of the best years in my life,” said Hughes. “I wasn”t a big-time recruit coming out of high school. I had a good senior year. We won the state championship. My senior year was (PRCC) coach (Jay) Artigues” first year at Pearl River.”I had talked to a couple of guys up there at the school. They had nothing but good stuff to say, so I pulled the trigger and signed with them. It worked out great for me. That first year, I learned a lot from Coach Artigues, both on and off the field. I had a lot of growing up to do. We wound up having some pretty good teams there.”As a freshman, he hit .369 with 20 home runs and 49 RBIs and was voted the team”s most valuable offensive player. As a sophomore, he hit .401, led the nation in home runs with 18 and 18 doubles, was third in the nation in RBIs with 70, and was named to the All-MACJC and All-Region XXIII teams for the second straight year.The lefthander showed his incredible versatility as he posted a 4-0 pitching record, while striking out 24 batters in 23 innings in 2004.The Wildcats were a combined 80-23 during Hughes” time at PRCC, including a state championship in 2004. He was the only Division II All-American from the MACJC in 2004.”My sophomore year was a blast,” said Hughes. “My best friend, Matt Riser, was there with me. That was one of our better years, not only because we won the state, but it was the best group of guys I have ever been around.”Hughes signed to play ball at Ole Miss and then was drafted in the 8th round by Tampa Bay. Negotiations with the Bucs were at a standstill for the most part and Hughes was ready to play for the Rebels. Then right before school began, the Bucs signed Hughes.”It turned out to be a good decision for me,” said Hughes. “When things were not going so well, I would think about what if. But it was the right thing to do.”In August 2009, Hughes was acquired as the player to be named in the deal that sent GregZaun to Tampa Bay. This year, he was lighting up Triple-A pitching, hitting .353 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games.”We were playing in Charlotte and everything was going good for me,” said Hughes. “One night, I went 0-for-3 and I went into the manager”s office and he said, ”Congratulations, you are going to the big leagues.” I couldn”t get a flight out that night, so I flew to Boston the next morning. I went by the team hotel and then out to the field.”Hughes wasn”t sure he would get to play at all, let alone start, until he got to the visitors” clubhouse and saw his name on the lineup card, hitting eighth in the lineup. Pitching for Boston was John Lackey.Hughes” parents, John and Sheryl Hughes. and younger brother, Hoyt, were in the stands.”I wasn”t sure how it works,” said Hughes. “But I came over here and I”m in the starting lineup against Boston at Fenway Park. It was awesome.”NAME: Rhyne HughesHOMETOWN: PicayuneFAMILY: Parents, John and Sheryl Hughes. Brother, Hoyt; sister, Bethany.EDUCATION: Graduated from Picayune High, 2002, graduated from PRCC, 2004.OCCUPATION: Professional baseball player, Baltimore Orioles organization.
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