Going from his very first days of Owl baseball (which is now approaching a full decade ago) to playing pro ball, to his current career in the booming real estate market of Nashville -- America's Music City where his wife is exploring a career in country music -- Rice University graduate Rick Hague reports in to say he is Safe At Home.
Hague was one of the young stars of the 2007-08 freshman class and the most-recent Owl team to reach to the College World Series. As a junior shortstop in 2010, he batted a steady .340 and shared the Rice team lead in doubles (20). The multi-sport prep star from Klein Collins High School finished second on the Owls in home runs (15), hits (88), runs scored (71) and total bases (153). He hit an eye-opening .529 in the four-game run through the Conference USA Tournament and batted a clutch .387 with runners in scoring position. Hague had a team-best 18-game hitting streak, posted 23 games with two or more hits and 14 games with two or more RBI.
In 2010 the Spring, Texas, native was the first pick of the third round by the Washington Nationals. Hague was the 83rd player taken overall and first C-USA player selected. It was no small accomplishment when considering there was one extended stretch where the Owls didn't have a field where team could train. Early in his collegiate career when Reckling Park's drainage system was being reconfigured in the off-season, Hague and his Owl teammates had to adapt.
"I remember we had to get rides to drive out to a high school to practice because our field was being redone," said Hague, now 28 and retired from pro baseball. "A group of us would pile into the back of Adam Zornes' truck every day. I also remember the afternoon workouts over at the football field with the whole team. I always enjoyed that part of training and the bonding process that goes with overcoming those tough workouts together, as a team."
Hague's initial post-Rice playing experience may not have provided the same palatial amenities as Reckling Park, but the young pro liked his first job out of college. The feeling appeared mutual from the Nationals' front office. The rookie from Rice was just getting started on his path to the majors.
"In 2010 I went to Maryland to play for the Hagerstown Suns, a Low Class A affiliate of the Nationals," Hague recalled. "The locker room was a joke and the fan base was nonexistent, but I played well and the Nationals were very encouraging.
"That next spring training I was playing my best baseball. I was sent to High A in Woodbridge, Va., to play for the Potomac Nationals. I started the season playing shortstop every day and they had me batting third in the lineup. Five games in, I was hitting close to .400 and I already had a home run and a couple of doubles. I was attempting to steal second base, and when sliding head-first my shoulder came out of its socket, tearing my labrum.
"After a month of rehab and countless attempts to cure the problem I had surgery on the labrum," he continued. "Five anchors were put in, and doctors were not sure that I would ever be able to play the infield again. I missed a year and half playing time.
"The rest of my minor league career was an absolute grind, trying to find that stride that I felt in 2011," Hague explained. "There were good months, but overall my performance was underwhelming. I was still moving through the system with the Nationals, but it wasn't the same as before. That excitement from the organization was missing. For the first time that I could remember I don't think I had fun playing the game. In 2016 I was released at the end of spring training."
As with happens a lot in life, the focus is on the door that's closing even though there's another door somewhere that's opening. It's also helpful if the opening door in question is close to home and your alma mater.
"I found myself without a team, at a tough time," Hague said. "All the teams at that time of year are cutting down their rosters. It was rough... then Gary Gaetti of the Sugar Land Skeeters gave me a call. As an independent pro team the atmosphere with the Skeeters is having fun by playing all-out. Gary loves to win, but he also loves to have fun. That helped me start to have fun playing the game again, and I ended up having the best year of my career."
Hague had found his way from having doctors tell him he might not play again to finishing sixth in the Atlantic League in hitting (.311) while ranking among the leaders with 17 home runs. Baseball was fun again, but admittedly the goal of playing independent baseball is to get back into the affiliated ranks. Even with his sensational year, which finally included having fun again, the opportunity to return to affiliated baseball did not arise.
The door to playing pro baseball had closed, but there was an important component to help the transition of leaving the game. Ending such a long relationship with baseball on a positive and fun note with the Skeeters made it easier to walk away satisfied.
"I decided I was going for the next step in life," Hague said. "Immediately after the season with the Skeeters my wife Lindsay and I, now married for five years, moved to Nashville. I completed my last semester of school, got my real estate license and in February (2017) started my new career with Priam Capital - a private-equity commercial real estate firm based here. The shift from baseball to commercial real estate has been relatively smooth. I am learning a lot about this new line of work, assisting investors all over the southeast, and I can tell Priam has been growing rapidly.
"Work has been growing as the city has been growing, and Lindsay also has an opportunity to work on her music full-time. She is meeting new people and writing with new people all the time. This town and the music business are set up like a lot of others where relationships are very important. She has already made a splash here and there is no telling how far she will be able to go. I act as her manager for the time being until she out-grows me.
"I am also staying competitive by working on my golf game and playing basketball a couple times a week," the recent Rice graduate stated. "We are loving Nashville and we would like to call it home for a long time."