SPRINGFIELD — Jon Hudson pitched at Gulf Coast Community College during the mid-1980s.
He coached the Rutherford High School baseball team to a record of 302-147 in 16 years, including six playoff appearances in the past seven seasons.
But the allure of the bluegrass was more than the short grass for the 48-year-old veteran high school baseball mentor.
Hudson said Monday that he will return to his roots and become the head baseball coach at Fairdale High School in Louisville, Ky. Hudson is a Kentucky native who first relocated here as a player for the Gulf Coast Commodores in 1985 when recruited by former Commodores assistant and later head coach Darren Mazeroski.
Hudson guided the Rams to a district championship and 22-5 record last season, Rutherford falling to Mosley in the Class 5A region semifinals.
“I just decided it was time for me to get back close to my family,” said Hudson, the dean of county baseball coaches.
“I appreciate everybody that was involved with Rutherford … it’s hard to put all that into words. Sixteen years that went by, all the people. Clyde Mills hired me here. All the parents. The 500 players that I coached.”
Hudson said that the most difficult aspect of his departure was leaving the current players in the program.
“It was a timing thing for me to get back to Louisville,” he said. “I’m from Louisville. Fairdale is about 5 miles from my parents’ house.”
Hudson was instrumental in starting the Panama City Invitational baseball tournament that annually is held during Spring Break for high schools located in the Southeast. He said that it is possible he could bring an out-of-state team to Bay County here for the tournament that he initiated.
“I could see that,” he said. “I could see (last year’s players) again. The hardest thing for me is to leave the players. I met with them this afternoon. It’s hard to meet with those guys. Hopefully over the past 16 years I impacted their lives a little bit.”
Hudson said that he has entertained other offers during his time coaching the Rams, but that the biggest attraction this time was to reconnect with his family.
“I feel that I’m at the age where I can help my parents out,” he said. “That’s the big thing. It’s a chance to get back with my family and connect with them now.”
Rutherford athletic director Kirk Harrell said that the Rams already have advertised to fill Hudson’s position, but do not have a time table as of yet to replace him.. Hudson also was boys golf coach at the school.
Hudson said he will begin his new role in Fairdale, Ky., on Monday.
“We have started advertising for this position,” Harrell said. “We do not yet have a time schedule set for filling the position. But are moving in that direction.”