Home Run Derby Highlights Big Baseball Week

Auburn, Ala.—This week is a big one for Coach John Pawlowski and the Auburn Baseball Tigers as they'll have a couple of special events to close out fall practice at Plainsman Park.

The annual Fall World Series will take place beginning Wednesday afternoon and on Friday the home run derby will take center stage with yet another talented lineup of participants to take part.

One of the biggest names is former Auburn and current Atlanta Braves standout Tim Hudson. Every year since its inception the home run derby at Auburn has raised money for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County. While they will still be a part of things this year Auburn decided to add another charity to the list in 2011 and it's one that is close to the hearts of the program and especially Hudson and his wife Kim.

With a mission that states "The Hudson Family Foundation is committed to making a positive and long lasting impact in the lives of children who have a genuine need for assistance with regard to a specific physical, emotional or financial circumstance", the Hudsons have been making a huge difference in the lives of kids throughout the Southeast and Pawlowski said it's huge to be able to help them in their mission.

"It gives us an opportunity to give back to the community," Pawlowski said. "We try to talk to the student-athletes about how important it is to give back and we're very fortunate to have an event that we can do that. With the opportunity to be partners with the Hudson Family Foundation is certainly an honor for us. We think we can help and give back."

For Hudson it's a win-win situation. Not only does it help his foundation out with support, but it's also huge for the baseball program in that it's a chance for fans to come out the night before the Ole Miss football game and be a part of something special while also getting to see some baseball action.

"Our goal is to make this into a premier fundraising event for both the Auburn baseball team and the Hudson Family Foundation," Hudson said. "Having moved back into the Auburn area and raising a family here, we want to give back to the community as much as we can. This is a win-win for our foundation and for the Auburn baseball program."

Hudson and wife Kim speaking to former Auburn Coach Hal Baird

The idea is the brainchild of Auburn Director of Baseball Operations Scott Duval. Wanting to add something to the home run derby and make it bigger and better, he approached Pawlowski about the idea to add the Hudson Family Foundation to the mix and that started the ball rolling. Soon it became not only an idea but a vision for those involved and it's something Duval said they want to grow and expand and make a must-see for Auburn fans down the road.

"To me it was a no-brainer," Duval said of getting the Hudsons involved. "With them moving back to Auburn and I have kept up to date with what they do with their foundation and kept in touch with Kim. We asked them if it was something they wanted to be a part of. Tim has participated in it, but we wanted to see if they were interested as far as the foundation goes. They were very happy we asked them. The main thing from out standout and from theirs is that we didn't want to eliminate the Boys and Girls Clubs because that's someone we have supported the last seven years. That made it even better.

"We have a chance to put our best foot forward for the foundation, the Auburn baseball program, for the athletic department, for everything," he added. "Having them behind it this event could be as big as we want it to be eventually. Hopefully they'll reap the rewards of it from a foundation standpoint and we can continue to use Tim and Kim to help them bring in different participants throughout baseball whether it be an Auburn alumnus or someone in baseball that may want to come in and give their time."

This year the home run derby will have a decidedly Auburn flavor as Hudson and teammate David Ross headline the event. Ross was a teammate at Auburn before transferring to Florida and currently plays for the Atlanta Braves as well. In addition former Brave and Florida Marlins player Wes Helms will take part as well. Helms is an avid Auburn fan and married to an Auburn graduate.

Currently a student assistant coach at Auburn, former All-American and seven-year MLB veteran Gabe Gross will undoubtedly put on a show as will former Auburn All-American and a fourth-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2010 MLB Draft Hunter Morris. Other participants include Kevin Patterson, Brian Fletcher, and former Auburn letterman and current manager of the Gulf Coast League Braves Jonathan Schuerholz.

Fans will have the opportunity to win some outstanding prizes on Friday night as two foursomes for golf at Grand National, an Atlanta Braves ticket package, an Under Armour gift pack, and prizes from each of the participants will be given out throughout the event that begins at 7 p.m. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Friday night with an autograph session for the 2012 Auburn Tigers beginning at 6 p.m. A $2 donation will be taken at the gate and for every $5 donation fans will gather chances for the prizes given away that night. The more money given the more chances to win.

This week is also the chance for fans to see the Tigers in action in game situations as the annual fall world series gets underway Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. with games taking place Thursday at 4 p.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m., next Tuesday at 4 p.m. and finishing up next Wednesday at 4 p.m. All games will be seven-innings and according to Pawlowski fans will see a much different group of Tigers than in the past few seasons.

"I'm encouraged by what we have," Pawlowski said. "We have 17 new faces on the team so there are a lot of guys competing for opportunities to play. A lot of great competition this fall. We have been a little nicked up and have about six guys that are hurt. There is nothing major and the guys will all be back, but this is the time of the year if you're going to be nicked up this is the time."

The teams have been divided into two squads, the Gray and the White, and pitching match-ups have been set for the first three games. The rotation for the Gray Team will be sophomore Will Kendall in Game 1, freshman Rocky McCord in Game 2 and sophomore Dillon Ortman in Game 3. The White Team will counter with senior Jon Luke Jacobs in Game 1, freshman Daniel Koger in Game 2 and freshman Trey Cochran-Gill in Game three. With several veterans being held out Pawlowski said it's an opportunity to see what the young guys can do.

"Guys like Slade Smith and Derek Varnadore have been around and obviously the fall is important, but you have to guard against overuse and the amount of innings they throw," Pawlowski said. "We're trying to be very cautious of that. It's interesting because it provides an opportunity for the young guys. Guys like the freshman Daniel Koger is throwing the ball real well. Rocky McCord and Trey Cochran-Gill, those guys in particular as three young freshmen, I've been encouraged by them. It's an opportunity with the fall world series to put a uniform on and play for keeps. It should be exciting."

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