The odds were against him.
Then again, it was always the case. But it never stopped Carlos Hughes.
That’s because his dream – to play Major League Baseball – wasn’t just about him, but his legendary great grandfather, too.
That’s why Hughes was down at spring training in Florida. The 26-year-old, switch-hitting, shortstop from New Brunswick, New Jersey had an invite for a private workout with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And while Hughes was hopeful that maybe he could get a spot in their minor league system anywhere, that wasn’t the ending point if it didn’t happen.
Knowing his chances were a long shot – at best – Hughes was ready to do whatever it took to let every major league team in Florida get a look at his talent – even if he had to knock on every door.
“I’ve been doing this so long that I’ve kind of gotten numb to rejection,” said Hughes, who drove his car to Florida and had to fend for his own lodging and meals to pursue his dream. “Every person that says no fuels me to keep going.
“I can’t stop until I accomplish want I’m trying to do.”
Even after the Pirates’ workout went well, but didn’t produce a minor league chance, Hughes kept going.
He went to the Yankees’ spring training facility day after day here in Tampa trying to talk his way on the field for a tryout. “Finally security came up to me and said, ‘sir, you can’t be around here on a consistent basis,'” Hughes said. “I told them everybody in the organization told me to be persistent and keep coming back.”
Eventually Hughes did talk to someone in the minor league department. He informed Hughes that the Yankees just don’t work out guys off the street.
“It was like a stab right in the chest,” said Hughes, who finished his college career at Mitchell College in Connecticut in 2011. “I’m there. I have all my stuff with me. It’s not going cost them anything to watch me take a few swings. But that’s how they operate.”
Last season, Hughes played for the Camden RiverSharks in the Atlantic League. Butch Hobson, the former Boston Red Sox player and
But there was no roster room on the Barnstormers. Nonetheless, Hobson, according to Hughes, was impressed enough to recommend Hughes to Camden.
But on the Major League level, Hughes usually hears the same thing when it comes to rejection. “It’s not my skills or that I can’t play, it’s always they have too many prospects and no room for me,” said Hughes, who calls and sends emails to every MLB team in a chance to get noticed. “But you can always make room if you want to make room.”
Baseball runs in his blood. Juan Tetelo Vargas, Hughes’ great grandfather, is considered by some as one of the greats who never got an opportunity to play in the big leagues because of the color of his skin.
Vargas, who played in the Negro Leagues, was inducted in the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame, Puerto Rican Hall of Fame and Cuban Hall of Fame.
“It would be everything if I got an opportunity because he didn’t get an opportunity to play in Major League Baseball, as a Dominican because of his skin color,” said Hughes about his great grandfather, who batted .330 in his Negro Leagues career. “So for me to get an opportunity that he never got would not just be big for me, but my whole family.”
Hughes grew up wanting to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. His idol was Alex Rodriguez growing up. He still admires A-Rod.
In an era where kids of color have pushed baseball to the back burner and hardly think of those who came before them, Hughes is the exact opposite.
His thirst to embrace the past is a testament to his great grandfather’s legacy.
“I am today’s version of my great grandfather, same build and skin color,” Hughes said. “When you see me, you see him.
“When I play, you see a reflection of him. My dream is, I want the world to see what it would have been like if Tetelo Vargas was allowed to play Major League Baseball.”
Without question, it’s a dream worth chasing – no matter the obstacles.