It was less than three months ago that former Berry College pitcher Collin McHugh was in Los Angeles, at Dodgers Stadium to be precise, celebrating with his Houston teammates.
Being part of the Astros’ World Series championship is the most recent highlight in McHugh’s journey through professional baseball. But the Illinois native says it was his days of pitching for the Vikings under the eye of head coach David Beasley which set the stage for what he has been able to accomplish in the last decade.
“This is where I really cut my teeth on how to play and how to pitch, and really take my game to the next level,” McHugh said Tuesday. “So I’ve always had a special place in my heart not only for coach Beasley, but for the whole staff and the organization.”
McHugh returned to his alma mater Tuesday, taking time to visit with professors and students throughout the day, as well as talk to the Berry baseball team prior to a speaking engagement in the evening in the school’s Krannert Center Ballroom.
In four seasons with the Astros, the 6-foot-2 pitcher has a 48-28 record and 3.70 ERA. He worked his way back from an early season injury last year and threw four shutout innings in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees.
He took the mound in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the World Series against Los Angeles with the game tied 4-4 and pitched two innings of a 10-inning, 13-12 win for Houston that included six game-tying home runs, a World Series record.
“I’m still a huge baseball fan, and I’m not so far removed from it or so far in it that I can’t have the perspective to know that it probably was one of the greatest postseason games of all time and I was lucky enough to pitch in it,” McHugh said, adding a personal jab that he did give up a three-run homer.
Houston had just completed its third-straight 100-loss season when McHugh joined the organization in December of 2013. He said pitching in that moment represented everything that he and the team had come to terms with during the comeback.
“It’s something that I think is going to stick with me for a long time, the trust that the staff, the organization has in me to pitch in that situation. I think it speaks to the work we’ve put in over the last four years and the work that this organization has put in to become what we are today,” McHugh said.
McHugh and his wife live in Atlanta, so he said it’s not too far for him to get back to the Berry campus, which he tries to do at least once during the offseason to see Beasley and the baseball players as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“It’s been almost a decade since I’ve been out of here, so there’s a new crop of players now but it’s fun to see that the spirit of Berry baseball just hasn’t changed. It’s still a great group of guys focused on academics, building character and growing as men,” McHugh said.
“Beas’ and the guys have always done a great job of preparing young men to live in the real world, and I’m still not there yet. I’m still in the baseball world. So they also did a pretty darn good job preparing me for that.”
Houston pitchers and catchers report to the Astros’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 13.