Joe Hudak spends nine months a year coaching kids.
What's three more months?
"(My son, Preston Hudak) asked if I was going to be the head coach," Hudak said. "I said, 'Do you want me to?' He said, 'Yeah.'
"So I said, 'OK, as long as you want me to.'"
Winthrop's baseball coach will take his 12-and-under team, the Carolina Reds, to Cooperstown, N.Y., this week to play in the Dreams Park tournament. It's Joe Hudak's second trip with the core group of the same team -- he was a Reds assistant two years ago -- but his first as the head man.
He took on the responsibility after former coach Merritt King stepped down. Hudak, at the request of his son, took over.
"We went as 10-year-olds," Hudak said. "There are four guys on our roster that went last time -- Preston, (Troy) Rawls, (Garrett) Rast and (Chandler) Hancock.
"We're hoping we'll be able to do a lot better than we did last time."
"We finished terrible last time," said Preston, the team's pitching leader with an 8-2 record who sports his dad's No. 13 on the field. "But this year, I think we have a really good chance."
The Reds have continuously re-stocked the roster around the original four and have played around 120 games since they first signed up for the trip two years ago. Through the fall and spring of this season, Carolina went 51-24 and earned the state's top ranking in its division.
They're coming in on a hot streak, having won the last tournament they entered. The Reds beat a nationally ranked (No. 2) Gastonia team last weekend at the Sun Drop Summer Championship before topping a quality Scorpions team 1-0 for the title.
"You don't see a lot of 1-0 games at this level," Hudak said. "None of our pitchers are flat-out overpowering. They throw strikes and we play good defense."
Two of the core four are also keen on hitting the ball. Rast leads the team with a .425 average, 13 home runs and 58 RBIs while Rawls is hitting .421 with nine homers and 36 RBIs.
"I'm not trying to hit them out, I just take a regular swing," shrugged Rast. "We're all just trying to go up there and win."
Winthrop pitcher Hamilton Bennett, a rising sophomore, is also going as an assistant coach. The team will leave sporadically, some families going today and some on Thursday. They'll meet on Friday for check-in, then participate in opening ceremonies and skills competitions on Saturday.
The first game is on Sunday.
"We have some guys on the team who have only been on the roster for a month or a couple of weeks," Hudak said. "Our goal is to have a team that stays together, and we're hoping to go up there and win a few games."
Michael "Munch" Smith
Coach: Joe Hudak
Assistant: Hamilton Bennett