Connor Hujsak walking in father’s athletic footsteps
NASHUA – The last name is certainly familiar to people who watched Nashua High School football at Holman Stadium back in the 1980s.
After all, how many players from around here get a full football scholarship to the University of Iowa? The big time of the Big Ten? As a punter, no less?
But that was Jimmy Hujsak’s biggest skill, and he made the most of it, even playing in the 1991 Rose Bowl. Fast forward over three decades later, and another Hujsak is making noise, not with his foot, but with his bat.
Yes, Connor Hujsak of Goffstown is trying to win games in the same stadium his dad did all those years ago, playing shortstop or third base for the Nashua Silver Knights.
“It’s pretty cool,” Connor Hujsak said. “Knowing he played here in the same stadium, it’s pretty cool.”
Dad thinks so, too.
“It’s awesome,” Jim Hujsak said. “It’s good to come back and see him experience what he’s doing now. Going through some good high-level baseball. And being back in the same area is a lot of fun, too. … We have a few stories going around, usually.”
When Jimmy Hujsak found out Connor was going to play for the Silver Knights, he was thrilled.
“For the summer, it was great, it was wonderful (for him) to come home,” Jimmy said. “He had some options. In the future, he’ll explore some different areas and just be a kid, play baseball and have fun.”
Baseball is the younger Hujsak’s game, and he’s good at it, having just finished his freshman year as shortstop at Virginia Commonwealth University. He hit .239 and showed the power that he has recently begun to display here with 12 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 35 RBIs in the spring. With Nashua, he got off to a quick start after a few games, then tailed off, but then found his hitting stroke with power. He won a game with six clutch homers in the tiebreaking Home Run Derby last month, and that carried over into regular at bats. He had four homers and 13 RBIs, hitting .228 going into this past week.
“He’s learned how to not get underneath the ball,” Silver Knights manager Kyle Jackson said. “We’ve been talking, let’s hit ground balls. … He’s seeing pitches now, seeing it at the same level.”
While Connor’s dad may tell stories in the stands and around Holman about playing for Nashua and Iowa, he doesn’t tell his son too many of them.
“Honestly, not many,” Connor said. “He doesn’t talk about himself too much. … But “I used to ask him what it was like (at Iowa) and stuff. It’s really cool to know what he used to do.”
And his dad gave him the same advice he probably got years ago.
“He said, just have fun, compete and get better,” Hujsak said.
Connor Hujsask played football at Goffstown his first two years, and then stopped to focus solely on baseball. It obviously worked.
He was on the Division II runner-up Grizzlies team his sophomore year. When the team moved to Division I, he had a couple big games on the mound for Goffstown against Nashua teams with his dad in attendance.
And the recruiting process was fun, with big-time college coaches watching.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It was what I wanted to do, so it was awesome to actually have it happen.”
Pitching was something he did in high school, but no longer, as he stopped when he got to VCU. While he was a shortstop throughout high school and his freshman year at VCU, he’s played third the last couple weeks for the Knights. But short is where he’ll likely continue to play in school.
“I wanted to focus at shortstop (at VCU); that’s where I see myself playing, and want to keep the bat going,” Hujsak said.
“It was an awesome experience,” Hujsak said. “Awesome. No complaints. Had a great year, great guys, great teammates, great coaches. I love it down there.”
And he loved the big-time competition. VCU made it to the NCAA tournament, losing in the regionals to eventual national champion Mississippi State.
“It was awesome, awesome to adjust, see what it’s like around the country, new guys, it was cool,” he said. “It’s a lot different (than high school), and down there (in Virginia), you play all year round.”
Hujsak admits he’s always wanted to play baseball since he was a young kid, and can’t put his finger on why.
“I don’t really know,” he said. “Like I would take a ball, throwing it and hitting baseballs. And I think when I first started, I want to say I was a shortstop. I love it. You’re the quarterback on the field, help everyone out, and show new kids how to play and help them out.”
He’s showed a lot of poise and baseball IQ.
“You watch a lot of baseball,” he said. “That’s how I learn.”
It’s paying off to go with what many see as natural talent.
“He’s a five-tool player,” Jackson said. “He’s speed, he’s got arm, he’s got a bat, he’s got power.”
And baseball IQ.
“Big-time,” Jackson said. “He’s helped out (recent Londonderry grad Brandon) Fish at second base. And he was more than willing to move at third, and help out Sam (McNulty, who moved over from third) at short.”
Hujsak grew accustomed to the soft infields of the South. He’s had trouble defensively with the harder infields in the FCBL, including Holman.
“Bad bounces,” Jackson said. “When you have a hard surface, especially here, you’re going to get some crazy bounces. So, he wasn’t used to that. Put him at third so he’s able to read a shorter bounce.”
Still, Hujsak likes the Holman atmosphere, a stadium that looks far different from when his dad played here.
“I like it, it’s a good stadium, it’s nice,” he said. “Around the league I like it, but they’re northeast fields. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to now.”
Other big-time schools the Commodores played were obviously UVA and Va. Tech, and the fields, Hujsak said, “were unreal.”
He watched a lot of the College World Series. He think it’s “pretty cool” a former Silver Knight, Vanderbilt’s Dom Keegan, played in the CWS finals.
Jimmy Husak has enjoyed watching his son play college ball.
“He loves it, he loves coming down to watch (the Silver Knights,” Connor Hujsak said, adding that Jim made the trip down to VCU and saw a lot of games there as well.
“He came down probably five or six times, mainly weekend games,” he said. “He loves to watch baseball.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” Jimmy Hujsak said. “It’s great for family to come watch him and see him. Stay grounded for one more year before he probably starts traveling around. It’s great to explore other areas and other venues. “
Jackson wants Hujsak back next year.
“We’re going to try to get him back next year,” Jackson said. “We’re working on it. We’ve been talking.”
“We’ll see. You never know,” Jimmy Hujsak said. “If he ends up back here, it’d be great, too. I like him home.”
Like father, like son.