Matt Rudis was sitting in a hotel room with his friends when he got word that he was selected to compete in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.
The honor came as a pleasant surprise for the Madisonville High senior, who will be making his first trip to Chicago next week.
“When they told me I was on the team I thought they were kidding at first,” said Rudis. “I didn’t think I was actually going to get picked. It’s an incredible accomplishment for myself to get this call and be a part of the team.”
The game is celebrating its 10th year and will be played on July 29. It will be broadcasted for the nation to see on MLB Network.
“It’s going to be an honor to get to play on that historic field,” said Rudis. “Just to play at a Major League stadium in general is thrilling. Let’s just say I’m going to have to take some deep breaths every now and then.”
Joining Rudis on the field will be 39 other high school ballplayers. The committee selected the best and most promising players from the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and Canada.
“I’m looking forward to meeting all of these guys because I don’t really know many of them,” said Rudis. “Playing with and against them will be a great experience. I’m excited and looking forward to all of it.”
Rudis will also have an opportunity to pitch in exactly the same location as his favorite professional, Jake Arrieta of the world champion Chicago Cubs. Rudis compares his work ethic to that of Arrieta as well as his willingness to be a great teammate.
“(Arrieta) is a great baseball role model for me,” said Rudis. “He’s always in the weight room and working for the team, that’s the kind of player I want to be. It’s going to be so awesome to pitch where he pitches.”
Off the field, Rudis is very aware of the role models who have shaped him into the man he is today. Aside from his accomplishments in the game of baseball, Coach Keith Sitton of the Madisonville Mustangs praised his work ethic and ability to work with younger players on the team. Rudis credits Sitton as well as his father for accomplishments on and off the diamond.
“My dad has always told me to go get what I want and to always work hard for it,” said Rudis. “He taught me to spend my time wisely while going after my dream and he has helped me throughout my entire life. As I get closer and closer to maybe grasping my dream, I haven’t grasped it yet, but the closer I get the more involved he is. But at the same time he has taken a step back and let’s me enjoy the moment for myself.”
Rudis is certainly on the brink of achieving something special. Since the game’s inception, 284 of the eligible 323 players who have competed were selected in the MLB Draft; 83 of those 284 were selected in the opening round, including 2017 Minnesota Twins first overall pick Royce Lewis. He finds himself in great company.
Still, no matter where Rudis may end up in his career, he will always call Madisonville home. The small town experience has played a huge part in shaping who he is and he will certainly take it with him to Chicago.
“Everybody knows everybody here,” Rudis said. “It seems as if everyone is constantly teaching everyone, which has helped me grow into a good man. It was great to grow up in a small town like Madisonville.”
Rudis also urges young ballplayers in Madison County and around the world to always have fun with it no matter what. He has never stopped having fun playing the game he loves, even as it has gotten more and more serious over the years.
“Always work for your dream and enjoy it,” Rudis said. “Never overthink it. Just have fun.”
Rudis will depart for Chicago on Tuesday. The game will take place the following Saturday at Wrigley and can be viewed on MLB Network at 7:05 p.m.
Contact Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.