HUDSON — In the world of high school baseball, aggressiveness on the basepaths can be as much of a weapon as some major pop at the plate.
When teams have gone up against the Hudson Hornets, that game plan usually goes right out the window. That’s due in large part to Ben Penn, one of the best defensive catchers in the state.
Throwing out runners at a 61% clip in his junior season, teams are quickly forced into another plan of action.
Starting next year, he’ll carry that skill set just a few miles away after signing a letter of intent to play baseball for Angelina College.
“I’ve known Coach (Jeff) Livin my whole life, so I know how great of a program they have and the type of coach he is,” Penn said. “They know how to develop players, so when I started factoring in all my options, I thought this was the best place for me.”
Penn burst onto the scene in his sophomore season with the Hornets when he was named the Disrict 20-4A Newcomer of the Year. In that campaign, he threw out almost half of attempted base runners.
Last year, he was even better behind the plate in adding a Defensive Player of the Year honor to that list.
The sky is the limit for his senior season, which will start in two months.
Livin was ecstatic about the type of talent Penn can bring to the AC program, comparing him to former Hudson star and current University of Houston starting catcher Kyle Lovelace.
“He’s not a far cry from (Lovelace), who is pretty much the measuring stick for defensive collegiate catchers,” Livin said. “Working with (Penn) for so long, I’ve got some unique insight into seeing how he’s developed and which direction he’s headed. He’s certainly headed in the right direction.”
Livin said with Penn’s strong arm, he could even be an option for the Roadrunners on the mound over the next two seasons.
Whatever role he has, Hudson head coach Glen Kimble said he will excel at the next level.
“He came in here and made himself into a really good catcher,” Kimble said. “This fall, he’s been swinging as well as he ever has. This is a well-deserved honor. I think this was a perfect choice for him with the coaching staff he’s going into.”
Penn had plenty of praise for several influential members in his development.
“Playing in East Texas afforded me to benefit from a lot of different coaches and others that helped me through the years,” Penn said. “Pete Werner at Fit ‘n Firm, Gilbert Gonzales and Chris McClendon at Bases Loaded, and all of my youth and high school coaches all had major influences in my ability and love of the game.”
The addition of Angelina College assistant coach Michael Barash was also an influential factor for Penn.
Barash played catcher at LSU and Palm Beach State Junior College before finishing his playing career at Texas A&M. He was also a member of the L.A. Angels organization.
“The addition of Coach Barash as assistant coach made this choice even more appealing,” Penn said. “His experience as a catcher in college and at the pro level will be an asset to me as I continue to improve my skills behind the plate. I hope to contribute to the team as a whole.”
Following what he expects to be a memorable senior season, Penn is ready to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I’ve wanted to play college baseball all my life,” Penn said. “My sophomore year is really when I thought it could happen. To get to this day and be able to sign is great. I look forward to what the future holds and thank God for how richly he has blessed me.”