Kingsmen: Rock Hill baseball team takes 2022 mission trip

Courtesy of Kingsmen Baseball

The Kingsmen baseball team is back on the diamond playing in the double elimination Southern Baseball League championship tournament, trying to bring home some championship hardware.

But the local team’s unforgettable moment from the season has already arrived.

Kingsmen head coach Joe Hudak, who has led a faith-based Rock Hill baseball program for years, traveled with his players and coaches to the Dominican Republic and accompanied them on the team’s annual mission trip earlier this month. The former Winthrop University coach used two words to describe the annual mission trip — “crazy” and “wonderful.”

“The crazy part was the flight schedules going to the Dominican Republic and returning home.,” Hudak told The Herald in a phone interview. “The flights down caused us to arrive four days late. We had to adjust the schedule in order to get in everything we wanted to accomplish.”

He added: “The wonderful part was watching the players interact with the kids and the people in the Dominican Republic and participate in building projects that were much needed in the areas we visited. The team visited villages, churches, orphanages and schools.”

They had a central location to work out of each day, and they did a lot: They carried bags of food to give to the people in the area they visited. They played games with the kids and took up a lot of time with them. They also built a bathroom at one of the churches they visited during the trip.

“The guy’s priorities changed during the trip,” added the veteran coach. “They saw first-hand what it was like to live where the people lived, and it made them appreciate even more what they had in the United States.”

Part of the mission was to minister to the people they met. That part had a big reversal.

“We went to minister to them,” he added. “However, it was them who ministered to us. It was an unbelievable experience for all of us.”

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Kingsmen coach Joe Hudak, back, leads a prayer at the end of a baseball game on its annual mission trip. Courtesy of Kingsmen Baseball

Mission trip a big part of Kingsmen baseball

Hudak, who has success on the baseball field everywhere he has coached, believes the mission trip is a drawing card in getting players for his team each year.

“The word is out about what we do each summer in addition to playing in the league,” he added. “The players want to play and improve their skills on the baseball field, but they also want to be part of spiritual and character development.”

While in the Dominican Republic the Kingsmen played three games against superb competition. They won all three games, but that was not all that was important. Playing against that caliber of competition did a lot of good for the team, but the true meaning of the trip came to the front near the end.

“On the last day of the trip the team was faced with playing another game or visiting a children’s orphanage,” said Hudak. “The players voted, and it was an overwhelming vote to visit the orphanage.”

Three local players were on the trip, and they were each amazed and moved by what they saw and did.

Chas DeBruhl, who is from Kershaw, was moved by what he saw.

“I was touched by the teachers at the school that we visited one day,” said pitcher Chas DeBruhl, who is from Kershaw. “They do not have what we have here, and they were giving everything they had to teach the kids there.”

He added: “Walking away gave me much more appreciation for what we have. The entire trip humbled me and helped me realize just how much we take for granted here because we are truly blessed.”

Mathieu Curtis, who is from Tega Cay, also took quite a bit away from the trip.

“It was eye opening to watch the kids play baseball with not the best equipment in the world,” said the Kingsmen pitcher. “They just played hard with a smile on their face and never complained once.”

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Mathieu Curtis (right) meets with his opponents after a game in the Domincan Republic on its annual mission trip. Courtesy of Kingsmen Baseball

Mission trip was ‘life-changing’

The Kingsmen played one of their games against Paulino Baseball Academy, which is the best team in the area. The game was memorable, but what followed was even better.

“Both teams gathered at the mound after the game, and Coach Hudak told them the story of Jesus,” added Curtis. “After that, we passed out Spanish New Testament Bibles to everyone who wanted one.”

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“Both teams gathered at the mound after the game, and Coach Hudak told them the story of Jesus,” added Curtis. “After that, we passed out Spanish New Testament Bibles to everyone who wanted one.” Courtesy of Kingsmen Baseball

Gavin Phillips, who is also from Kershaw, was also moved by what he saw on the trip.

“We went to the girls’ orphanage one day,” he said. “Coach Hudak said they would attach to us, but I didn’t think it would happen as fast as it did to some people. There was this one girl, and her smile just from being held just melted my heart.”

The Kingsmen catcher thought the entire trip was most memorable.

“There are a lot of reasons I will never forget this trip and the guys we made it with,” he added. “This has been the best week of my life.”

Baseball is very important to Hudak, and that will never change. Also what will never change is his desire to develop the total person.

“I want the total summer experience for each of our players to be life-changing,” Hudak said. “This year’s mission trip was quite rewarding in that regard.”

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