Marion’s Tony Rudd commits to Three Rivers Raiders
A journey that started in Marion takes former Patriots shortstop Tony Rudd to Missouri to continue his baseball career
Tony Rudd, heart of the Marion Patriots defense over the past couple seasons has found a new home, verbally committing to start his collegiate career on the diamond with the Three Rivers Raiders in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
The former Patriots starting shortstop says stepping on a college field will be the accomplishment of a goal that he has been striving for his entire life.
“It feels good,” Rudd said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and I finally get a chance to do it.”
The opportunity to grow on the field and the trust Rudd has in his former skipper, Marion head coach Pete Prater, were the deciding factors in the 5foot-10, 145-pound, 19year-olds decision to take his talents to the midinfield in Missouri.
“I just thought that they had a little bit more to offer than (Champion Christian College) and Coach Prater told me that he used to go there and that it was a good place,” Rudd said.
Finding Rudd a college home was a top priority for Prater as soon he took over the Marion head coaching job this past season and noticed Rudd’s glove at shortstop. Prater reached out to his former pitching coach at Three Rivers, and current head coach, Stacey Burkey in a conversation which eventually led to a Three Rivers assistant coach showing interest in the Marion prospect and setting up an individual workout for Rudd in Jonesboro.
“Just by watching him they knew he was athletic and the ball was put in Tony’s hands right there,” Prater said. “I told Tony it was time for him to mature and live his own life finally, get out of Marion and try something.”
Also in attendance at that workout in Jonesboro was a scout from the Atlanta Braves organization who, according to Prater, said that, with a couple more years of development, he could see Rudd becoming a draftable player in the annual MLB draft.
Prater calls Rudd the second best defensive shortstop he’s seen in his 18 years of coaching, comparing him to Corey Ragsdale from Jonesboro who was drafted in the second round of the 2000 MLB draft by the New York Mets and played in the minor leagues for nine seasons.
“Defensively, he was unbelievable,” Prater said of Ragsdale. “He had range. He made plays that nobody else could make or would make and Tony made some of those this year. He saved a bunch of games for us. I saw a little bit of that in him. Tony’s capable. He just has to go do it now.”
On the field in Marion this past season, Rudd had what many consider his best year defensively, an area of Rudd’s game which was immediately apparent to Prater.
“Tony was one of those guys that was able to play and, athletically, I believed in him all year,” Prater said. “I can’t tell you if there was magic there that clicked with him or what, but it was there. It was just a matter of him being consistent on the field and believing in his talent.”
Though perhaps the most improved part of Rudd’s game came at the plate as the Marion shortstop, who played in 25 of 26 games this past season, finished the year with a .310 batting average, resulting in 17 doubles and five triples.
Prater says that Rudd’s determination to lock down the Marion middle infield, even though slumps at the plate, is what helped the Marion speedster eventually mature in the batter’s box.
“He just never stopped playing,” Prater said. “For a high school kid, I thought that’s what enabled him to be able top play. We never got down on him at the plate or nothing. He was still important to us. We hit him in the one and two holes and the five-hole sometimes and I think he just developed that maturity.”
Rudd has aspirations of continuing his baseball career after his upcoming days at Three Rivers, whether at a Division 1 school or professionally.
And though the 19-yearold says the thing about college he looks forward to most is playing baseball, he is also determined to study criminal justice, following the foot steps of his uncle who was a detective.
Rudd begins his career at Three Rivers on August 8 when he moves onto campus.
By Collins Peeples