By Pat Disabato Daily Southtown

When Tré Hondras and I talked Monday, he had just wrapped up baseball practice on a sun-splashed, 81-degree day in Ocala, Florida.

I had just finished snow blowing my driveway.

“I don’t miss the snow,” Hondras said. “I like hot weather.”

Hondras’ bat has been awfully hot.

The Homewood-Flossmoor graduate is coming off a weekend in which he launched his first two home runs for the College of Central Florida (4-0).

What made the moment even more memorable was his parents were in the crowd soaking up the moment — and the sunshine.

“It was a great feeling to do that with my family here,” Hondras said. “And we won all three games. That makes it even better.”

Four games into his college career, Hondras couldn’t be happier.

He’s hitting .286 with seven runs, four walks, two homers and six RBIs. He has been hit by a pitch twice. The 6-foot, 185-pound outfielder, a right-handed hitter, is making things happen for the Patriots, a junior college program with just over 10,000 students.

“I love this team and this coaching staff,” Hondras said. “They’ve made me feel comfortable from day one. It’s been great.”

Hondras, however, never expected to be playing baseball in January in Florida.

That wasn’t the plan.

Up until August, he had intended to honor his commitment to Michigan.

But life threw Hondras a curveball. A knee-buckler. One that would alter his college baseball journey.

“There were some personal things and financial things related to COVID-19 that changed things,” he said. “The NCAA granting everyone a year of extra eligibility. The coaches at Michigan wanted me to wait until January (2021) to enroll.

“That didn’t give me much of an opportunity to compete for a position. I just didn’t feel like I was included as part of the team sitting home for four months. So I decommitted.”

Granted, Hondras found a place to play at the College of Central Florida, but at the time of his decision, there were no assurances.

That takes some guts and self-confidence.

Homewood-Flossmoor’s Tre Hondras points to his dugout after connecting for a solo home run against Providence during a game on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
Homewood-Flossmoor’s Tre Hondras points to his dugout after connecting for a solo home run against Providence during a game on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Gary Middendorf / Daily Southtown)

You can imagine there was some anxiety.

Hondras, however, has faced adversity in the past. He was a member of the 2014 Jackie Robinson West Little League team that had its championship stripped for using ineligible players.

And not ever stepping foot on Michigan’s campus hurt.

“I was crushed,” he said. “I was angry at first. Then there was relief and excitement to see what my new path would be. I had to put my big boy pants on.”

While he had several options from junior colleges in Illinois, Hondras believed heading south to Florida made the most sense.

It offered a fresh start.

He didn’t even know a single player on the roster.

Still, he was welcomed with open arms.

“My teammates were excited for me to be a part of the team,” Hondras said. “That was big for me. It felt like I had been there for months when it only had been 10 minutes.”

For Hondras, it has felt like home.

He feels this experience has allowed him to further grow as a player and a person and he sees greater opportunities down the road.

So do I.

The College of Central Florida is surrounded by big-time Division I baseball programs — Florida State, Florida, Miami — that don’t have to travel very far to scout talent. And Hondras is right there in front of them.

It’s also convenient for professional scouts who consider Florida prime real estate for future major league talent.

Hondras is ready for whichever path comes up.

“Last year at this time, I’d never have believed in a million years I’d be in Ocala, Florida, playing for the College of Central Florida,” he said. “But things happen for a reason. Everybody is facing adversity with COVID. You have to keep fighting.

“This is a special place and a special team I’m a part of. I’m excited for what’s ahead. My story is just beginning.”

Yes, it is.

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