Black Her-Story: LSU Softball Stories – LaDonia Hughes, Life Lessons Through Softball
BATON ROUGE, La. – LaDonia Hughes, another LSU great who wore the No. 44 played two seasons for the Tigers and ended her career with a 2004 NFCA All-American Second Team selection as she helped LSU reach its second Women’s College World Series (WCWS) appearance in the program’s history.
Hughes transferred from Lake City Community College in Florida and came to LSU on a full scholarship. After settling in in 2003, Hughes concluded her collegiate career with a bang in 2004 where she logged a .350 batting average with 84 hits, 53 runs, 29 RBIs, one home run and stole 28 bases. Her 240 at bats that season ranks No. 1 in the program’s single-season records and her 84 hits rank No. 7. Hughes totaled six games that season with three or more hits, including a perfect 4-for-4 game with four runs scored against Alcorn State on Feb. 20, 2004. In addition to her big bat, Hughes also recorded a perfect fielding percentage from the outfield with 58 putouts and six assists.
The Tigers boasted a 57-12 overall record with a 22-6 SEC mark and was crowned the 2004 SEC regular season and tournament champions. LSU held a program-best No. 2 ranking twice in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll and grabbed wins in the WCWS against No. 6 Michigan, No. 5 California, and No. 4 Florida State. Overall, in her career at LSU, Hughes recorded a .320 batting average in 444 at bats and tallied 142 hits, 100 runs, 38 RBIs, 52 stolen bases and a 1.000 fielding percentage with 128 putouts and eight assists.
“My time was great at LSU,” Hughes said. “I loved the campus. The people were nice, it was just a great school, and I really enjoyed being there as a black student-athlete.”
After her time at LSU, Hughes was drafted by the San Antonio Armadillos. Once the team folded, Hughes was traded to the New England Riptide where she played for one year. She then went on to play for the Arizona Heat where she was named the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year. When Hughes was not playing professionally in the summers, she was coaching. Her first job was at Daytona Beach Community College where she served as an assistant coach. The next four years, Hughes coached at Western Illinois University as the first assistant. While at Western Illinois, Hughes joined the Washington Glory in its first season as a member of the National Pro Fastpitch League in 2007. She played two seasons with Glory and won a national title before playing one final year with the USSSA Pride. After concluding her professional playing career, Hughes spent two seasons as the head coach at Oakland in Rochester, Mich. from 2010-2012. Throughout the duration of her coaching career, Hughes got married, began having children and decided to step away from college coaching to focus on her family and moved back to her hometown in Farmerville, Va.
“Softball gave me the opportunity to travel and be around some of the best softball players in the world. It gave me the sense of competitiveness. What I took away the most about my experiences as a player was the camaraderie, understanding leadership, teamwork and how to move forward in life. As a woman, you know your end goal as far as playing professional sports and having longevity in the game does not really exist. Once you get married and have children, usually for a woman, your desires change compared to men who is providing for the family making triple or even quadruple what a woman would make playing sports. It was not really a sense of worth, but we get to still have experiences, explore life, and have fun for a short amount of time playing softball before we decide we want families and everything else.”
Hughes still loves the game of softball and continues to pay it forward. She now coaches at her high school alma mater Prince Edward County High School in Virginia and loves the life lessons she gets to teach the next generation.
“For the younger generation, we must get them to understand it is truly a game, but how to relate it back to real life,” Hughes said. “In any game you play you will fail more than you succeed. But that does not make you a failure, it just means any time you fail, in sports or in life, you must get up and keep going. I want to show the youth how to compete and that competition is good. Yes, you can have friends, but in life, we all must compete at some point in some way and softball does a good job at teaching all of those principles to prepare you for the real world.”