During his senior season at The Baylor School, Wes Hodges was forced to bat left-handed due to a wrist injury.
Still, he turned in a solid season and helped lead Baylor to the Division II state baseball championship in Memphis.
Watching Hodges' display his baseball savvy that spring left little doubt in my mind that he was destined for stardom in college and professional baseball.
Once Hodges got to Georgia Tech in 2004, however, he was hit in the face with a 91 mph fastball against Georgia at Turner Field, causing four small fractures in his cheekbone. He suffered through a nightmare summer at the plate, but has since fully recovered, once again proving his toughness and ability level.
Last year at Georgia Tech, Hodges was voted first team All-ACC while leading the Jackets with a .397 average.
Georgia Tech opens the season this weekend, and Hodges, a junior third-baseman, has received several preseason honors, including:
* Collegiate Baseball has chosen Hodges as a first-team preseason All-American.
* The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association of America has chosen Hodges as a second-team preseason All-American.
* Baseball America's Allan Simpson now lists Hodges as the No. 8 collegiate prospect for the 2006 June Draft.
"I've gone through some adversity, but it helped me figure things out,'' Hodges said. "I'm just working hard and doing everything I can to help Georgia Tech have a great season.''
Tech has been picked to finish second in the ACC, as determined in a vote of the league's 12 head coaches. Clemson was picked first after receiving eight first-place votes. Tech picked up two first-place votes as did third-place choice North Carolina.
"I just want to help us get to Omaha (for the College World Series),'' Hodges said. "I'm focusing on that and trying to help my team as much as possible. All the rest will take care of itself.
"I'm not worrying about the draft, just playing hard and having fun.''
The future is bright for Hodges, who has good range and a strong arm at third base. If the draft goes as expected, this could be his last season with the Jackets.
"Yeah, I guess you could say I'm living a dream,'' Hodges said. "I'm having a great time and I've made a lot of friendships that should last a lifetime.''
(E-mail Stan Crawley at firstname.lastname@example.org)