Pete Hughes guides the Virginia Tech baseball program for his seventh season after leading the 2012 squad to a 34-win season and 11 wins in the ACC. The overall victories marked the fourth straight season the team reached at least 30 wins for the first time since the Hokies won at least 30 from 1992-97. After four ACC seasons with no more than seven wins, Tech has now reached double figures in its last five campaigns.
That includes the 2010 season – Tech’s best since 1999 – when the Hokies went 40-22 and advanced to both the ACC and NCAA Championships. They also won 16 conference victories, the most since joining the ACC in 2005.
A personal streak that also continued for Hughes is his ability to spot and groom talent. Two Hokies and three recruits were selected during the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June, while two more signed pro contracts in the summer. That marked the ninth straight year that at least five players either coached or recruited by Hughes had been drafted or signed pro contracts.
Hughes, who came to Blacksburg in 2007 after eight seasons at Boston College, agreed in the summer of 2009 to a contract extension that will keep him at Virginia Tech through the 2014 season.
“My wife Debby and I are unbelievably grateful to [Virginia Tech president] Dr. [Charles] Steger and [Virginia Tech athletics director] Jim Weaver for extending us the great opportunity to raise our family in such a wonderful community and athletics department,” Hughes said at the time. “I want to see the growth of the Hokies fully through and I love the direction of our program, as well as the vision of Mr. Weaver.”
Hughes took over the Tech program following the 2006 season and the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Chuck Hartman, who spent 28 years with the Hokies and 47 years as a head coach. The 2006 campaign saw the Hokies win just 20 games, their lowest figure since 1974, but Hughes quickly turned things around and got the Hokies back on the path to the winning tradition that Hartman established long ago.
“I am pleased and proud that we have been able to attract an outstanding young head coach to follow one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history,” Weaver said when announcing Hughes’ arrival. “Pete Hughes is familiar with the Atlantic Coast Conference and knows Virginia Tech, having competed against us in recent years in both the BIG EAST and the ACC. He also knows that we want to be a nationally competitive baseball program. I believe Coach Hughes is the right person for Virginia Tech at this moment in time.”
Through six seasons at Tech, Hughes has amassed a 182-152 record, which is third all-time at the school behind Hartman (961, 28 seasons) and G.F. “Red” Laird (343, 30). He is closing in on career win number 500, entering the 2013 season with a 484-363-2 all-time mark in 16 seasons.
In the past season, Tech and Hughes did pass a few milestones, with the Hokies notching the 2,000th career victory for the Tech baseball program, the 400th career win at English Field and Hughes coaching in his 800th career game. One more milestone is on the horizon, the 1,200th career victory overall in home games (24 shy).
Before arriving at Tech, Hughes, 43, spent the previous eight seasons as the head coach at Boston College, where he compiled a 250-181-2 record. He also was the head coach at Trinity University in Texas for two seasons (1997-98), guiding the Tigers to a 52-30 mark.
Prior to Hughes’ arrival, Boston College averaged 13 wins a season over 35 years. During their eight seasons under Hughes, the Eagles averaged 31 wins per year. In 2005, he led BC to a school record 37 wins and his squad was named the Division I New England Baseball Team of the Year.
During his first two seasons at Boston College, Hughes guided his teams to back-to-back single-season school marks for win improvements (nine). He took over a team that finished 17-23-1 during the 1998 season and coached it to a 26-21-1 record in 1999. The following season, the Eagles posted a 35-20 record and made just their second-ever appearance in the BIG EAST Tournament.
Hughes was named BIG EAST, New England and ABCA/Diamond Division I Northeast Region Coach of the Year following the 2000 season. He also earned BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2002 and was the New England Coach of the Year again in 2005. Hughes took the Eagles to the BIG EAST Tournament a total of five times in seven seasons.
In 2006, Boston College posted a 28-25-1 record during its first year of Atlantic Coast Conference competition and finished fourth in the Atlantic Division. Among the Eagles’ ACC victories were three wins against the Hokies in Blacksburg, along with two wins versus Georgia Tech and a victory against Clemson, both of which went on to participate in the 2006 NCAA College World Series.
Sixty-one players who were coached or recruited by Hughes at Boston College or Virginia Tech have been drafted or signed pro contracts, and four have received All-American honors. Pitcher Chris Lambert was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, becoming the first-ever Boston College player to be selected in the opening round. He made his major-league debut with Detroit in 2008.
A majority of those 61 players were undrafted out of high school, a further testament to Hughes’ commitment to developing and helping players reach their full potential.
Even more impressive was the Eagles’ academic success under Hughes. During his eight seasons at Boston College, the baseball program had a 100 percent graduation rate.
At Trinity University (Texas), Hughes inherited a team that had averaged 11 wins per season in each of the previous 17 years. In just two years with the program, Trinity averaged 26 victories and won 63 percent of its games under Hughes, setting the school record for wins (33) and earning a regular season conference championship during his second and final season in 1998.
Hughes began his coaching career at Hamilton College in New York in 1990-91 and found himself torn between football and baseball. During his year at Hamilton, he served as an assistant in football and held the top assistant and recruiting coordinator jobs for baseball. He continued his dual-sport coaching roles in the very same capacities at Northeastern University in Boston from fall 1991 through spring 1996. When he started his stint with the Huskies, he was the youngest full-time assistant coach in the Division I-AA football ranks, but when he left, he was headed to the state of Texas to be a college baseball head coach.
As a player, the Brockton, Mass., native was a four-year standout as a third baseman on the diamond and a four-year starter at quarterback on the gridiron at Davidson College (1986-90). Hughes was captain of the baseball team as a senior in 1990 and graduated that year with a bachelor of arts in sociology/anthropology.
Hughes and his wife Debby have five children: sons Thomas, 15, Hal, 13, Dominic, 11, and PJ, 7, and a daughter Grace, 9. They have been very active in community service over the past 20 years, raising money for the Jimmy Fund, which has supported the fight against cancer in children and adults at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
He has also brought that sense of community service to Blacksburg with the creation of “19 Ways” in 2010 as a challenge to his baseball team to find 19 ways to make a difference, to get involved and to give back to the community.
“This program is going to be part of our program for as long as I am here,” Hughes said. “This is just as important as any other phase of our program – to get our kids out in the community and to have an impact on less fortunate groups.
“Our guys know how privileged they are to be an ACC Division I athlete at a tremendous school and there is a role that comes with that in the community.”