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Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes - INF
Hometown: Perth, WA
Debut: 28 April 2010
Final Game: 29 April 2012
Teams played for: Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics

Southern Thunder stalwart Luke Hughes's baseball career stretched from the original ABL to MLB to the new generation of Australian professional baseball.

Born in baseball hotbed Perth, Hughes played in the International Baseball League of Australia (IBLA) in 2001 before signing with the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent in 2002. He hit .305 in his first professional season, but struggled to adapt to the various early levels in the Minors. However, his illustrious career in the Claxton Shield continued, and he led Western Australia to the 2003 title. He also played for Team Australia in the 2005 and 2007 Baseball World Cups and the 2006, 2009, and 2013 World Baseball Classics.

Hughes' hitting picked up, and in 2008, he played in the MLB All-Star Futures Game, a showcase event of the top prospects in Minor League Baseball. The infielder was the only Australian on the team that year. Hughes also posted a .319 batting average and earned a promotion to Triple-A Rochester to end the season.

The Twins called him up two years later. Hughes debuted on 28 April 2010 and smacked a home run off of Detroit Tigers' starter Max Scherzer in his first big league at-bat, becoming just the 106th person in MLB history to do so at the time. Hughes played in one more game with Minnesota before the team sent him down again, and he had to wait until next season for another chance at big league glory.

Hughes saw regular playing time with the Twins in 2011, showing some strong defensive skills but posting a less than impressive batting average of .223. He played in four games for Minnesota in 2012 before being claimed off of waivers by the Oakland Athletics. His career with the A's was short though, spanning four MLB games and two stops in the Minors, and the team released him in the middle of the 2012 season. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays that August, finishing the season by hitting .314 in 28 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. The 2012 season marked the last time Hughes played professionally in the US.

A longtime member of the Perth Heat, Hughes won three Claxton Shields with his hometown team in 2011, 2012 and 2014, and will join them once again on the field in the 2014/15 ABL season. The new season brings a new role for Hughes, who will also serve on the team's coaching staff as a hitting instructor. He also continues to help the development of new Australian baseball talent as an instructor at the MLB Australian Academy on the Gold Coast, and, along with fellow MLB alum Graeme Lloyd, helped coach the women's national baseball team to the bronze medal at the 2014 Women's Baseball World Cup in Japan.

View Luke Hughes's career statistics from Baseball Reference

(Photo at right: Hughes makes a play for the Heat during the 2013/14 ABL season. Credit: SMP Images/ABL Media)