For a while last year, the only strikeouts Chase Hodson seemed destined to log were from customers saying no, thank you. Then came the life-changing phone call.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I was interviewing for a job to sell windows and roofing, going door to door. I got a call the next day from the Yankees asking if I wanted to come pitch. I was like, absolutely.”
A year later, Hodson’s opponents have been the ones striking out. A lot.
The 25-year-old righthander from Richmond, Texas, has fanned 52 batters and walked just eight in 34 2⁄3 minor-league innings since signing as an undrafted free agent on June 23, 2016. Through five appearances and 7 2⁄3 innings for Staten Island this year, Hodson struck out 15, allowing one walk, six hits and one earned run.
“He has the stuff that hitters just can’t see,” Staten Island pitching coach Travis Phelps said. “He’s got a lot of deception, so they pick it up late, and then it’s got late break, too, late movement. Hitters are really just having a tough time picking up the baseball off him.”
For Hodson, the path to this point has been littered with roadblocks. As a high schooler, he committed to Dallas Baptist University, a Division I program that has appeared in six of the last seven NCAA baseball tournaments. But he said the school grew concerned about a lingering elbow issue and rescinded its scholarship offer before he arrived on campus.
From there, Hodson bounced around. He pitched for Metropolitan Community College in Missouri as a freshman and Alvin CC in Texas before achieving his goal of earning a scholarship to another four-year school: Miami, one of college baseball’s most prestigious programs.
After one season with the Hurricanes, the ulnar collateral ligament in Hodson’s right elbow finally gave out.
“It was like 99 percent torn, but we tried to rehab at Miami,” Hodson said. “At the end of the season, we just decided to get Tommy John [surgery].”
And so Hodson’s journey was interrupted once again. With him sidelined for a full year, he said Miami did not “re-up the scholarship,” so he transferred closer to home at Texas State.
“It was a blessing in disguise, too,” he said. “Texas State worked out well for me. Taught me to be a back-end reliever, which I thought even in high school . . . I knew my stuff was going to work better out of the bullpen than it would as a starter.”
In 37 2⁄3 innings in 2016, Hodson posted a 3.11 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks. The strikeout rate in particular caught the attention of the Yankees’ Scott Benecke and his team of analysts, and they sent area scout Brian Rhees to evaluate Hodson.
“As I saw, I said, ‘well, shoot this guy can spin the [curveball],’ ” Rhees said. “His fastball velocity by radar gun wasn’t a separator, but the way it played, particularly when he was able to throw his breaking ball for strikes, it actually played above its true grade.”
After the draft, Rhees received instructions to follow up with the Texas State staff. The coaches told him more about Hodson’s perseverance, convincing the Yankees he would be “an outstanding employee.” And then with the organization’s approval, Rhees made the call that changed Hodson’s life.
“To Chase’s credit, his background is one with a considerable number of obstacles, any one of which would be enough to say, OK, I’m done with this,” Rhees said. “He’s one of those baseball survivors. His determination and belief in himself when seemingly no one else on the planet believes in him, that has carried him forward.”
So Hodson will continue his journey through the minors. It sure beats going door to door in the Houston heat.
“It was going to be 100 degrees outside selling roofing and windows,” Hodson said, “so I’ll take this job over that job any day.”