Every baseball team needs a utility man, someone who can step in to any position seamlessly. For the Seton Hall Pirates, that man is Connor Hood, a sophomore from Glen Rock, Pa.
Hood has broken out at first base this season, even though he was primarily a shortstop in high school. Hood has showed the glove and arm to play just about any position in the infield. Those diverse skills are what drew the Seton Hall coaching staff to Hood during the recruiting process.
“He showed a lot of versatility being able to play any infield position, and do it well,” assistant coach Mark Pappas said. “We liked his defense, athleticism, knack for the game and ability to move him around which has made him a huge asset.”
That versatility is what earned him playing time as a freshman.Despite his .159 batting average, he had 17 starts and 25 total appearances as the primary backup third baseman. His swing needed work, but his coaches were not worried about his future at the plate.
“We saw a swing that we thought had great potential and could be worked with,” Pappas said.
When fellow sophomore Matt Toke went down with an injury early this season, Hood was given a shot to claim the first baseman job, at least while Toke was out. Hood was more than ready for the opportunity and felt comfortable with the glove at first base.
“I just want to do my job,” Hood said. “I knew I would get some opportunities and so I want to just try and do whatever I can to help the team and I knew I could handle first base fine.”
“We knew it wasn’t a position he wasn’t familiar with,” coach Rob Sheppard said. “We had done some scrimmages and drill work to get him reps so we were comfortable putting him out there.”
So far, Hood is hitting .218 this season, but he has already seen noticeable improvement in his swing since last season and was named to the Big East Honor Roll on April 16 after hitting .500 the week prior.
“Offensively he’s always continued to work hard and improve and some of his hard work is starting to show up in his production,” Sheppard said.
“I feel a lot more comfortable and relaxed this year [at the plate],” Hood said. “I’m just a lot looser and just having a good time out here.”
Even so, Hood’s glove is what has made him so valuable to the team in 2018. If Toke returns this season, Hood will still have value around the diamond as an athletic defender.
“Connor is very receptive moving around,” Sheppard said. “That’s what has really contributed to his ability to have an impact on our team. He doesn’t give you a ‘fish out of the water’ kind of feel. He knows he can play multiple positions and do it really well.”
Moving forward, Hood will have the opportunity to compete for multiple infield positions, with second basemen Rob Dadona and shortstop Al Molina graduating.
Seton Hall’s coaching staff is not concerned with Hood’s long term position at the moment, however, as they see his potential at multiple spots on the infield.
“We’re excited he’s made the strides that he’s made so far,” Sheppard said. “We are really looking forward to the improvement that we know he is capable of.”
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lombardo_andrew.