By Lance Jenkinson
The end of the road for Luke Hughes as a professional with Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League is drawing near.
But Hughes is hopeful the full stop on his playing career will not end this weekend.
Hughes dreams of tasting the ultimate glory with the Aces before hanging up the cleats.
Standing in his way is the Auckland Tuatara, who the Aces will face in a mouth-watering three-game semi final series starting at Melbourne Ballpark on Thursday night.
Games two and three, if required, will be in Auckland on Saturday and Sunday.
Hughes is hoping to go out with a bang the following weekend, not a wimper his weekend.
It will also be the last chance for the hard hitter to extend his record for most home runs in the ABL.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play in the league since it started 10 years ago,” Hughes said.
“There’s a few guys hot on my heels who will take hold of that record very soon.”
Hughes feels privileged to have had a long and decorated career in a sport he loves.
The 35-year-old played at the highest levels, representing Australia internationally and being on major league rosters with Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays.
It was with the Twins where he enjoyed his most success, playing 106 games for 69 hits and eight home runs.
The high point of his career was his first at-bat in the majors, when he blasted a home run off superstar pitcher Max Scherzer to silence the fans in Detroit.
“It was a fantastic ride,” Hughes said.
“I’m glad to play have played 10 years in the states.
“I’ve got a lot of fond memories and friends over there.
“I do still enjoy to watch a few of the highlights.”
Hughes will move into the next phase of his baseball career full time after the ABL season finishes.
As the commercial operations manager of the Aces, he will have a huge role to play in the growth of the Aces and by extension baseball n this town.
Hughes joked that it has been fun go for a “short walk” from his desk in the office to the playing field, but the time has come to pass on the baton to younger and more ambitious player.
“I just love baseball,” Hughes said.
“It’s been a huge part of my life for so long. “I’ve been enjoying the chance to transition into more of the off-field side of things.”
Hughes is buoyant about the Aces future and the part his can play in it in the front office.
“We’re only just touching the surface,” he said.
“Our owner came on board late in July, so it was a pretty quick turnaround to get the team together and get on the field and be ready for this season.
“Moving into the off-season, we’ll have way more time to plan and put some things into place to have a bigger and better year next year.”
First things first, Hughes has a championship to go and chase.