When Blake Farley moved to shortstop during his freshman year, his coach at the time was cautiously optimistic.

And maybe a little terrified too.

"He was passable at first," Hudson assistant baseball coach Tracy Lewis said.

Farley, a second baseman in his previous life, felt a little uneasy as well. He was a stranger in a strange land and his future on the diamond seemed extremely uncertain.

"The transition was different because it was a longer throw to first and there was a lot more range to cover on the field," Farley said.

Over time, Farley fell in love with his new position. And he hopes to stay with his truelove for another four years.

Farley, a 2020 Hudson graduate, is planning to continue his academic and baseball careers at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. The private liberal arts university, which was founded in 1842, is a member of the North Coast Athletic Conference.

Farley also considered playing for John Carroll University in University Heights. In the end, achieving his baseball and academic version of a checkmate led to a more "diagonal" journey with the Battling Bishops.

"I decided on OWU because it felt like a second home to me," Farley said. "The campus is beautiful. The coaches and players were very welcoming and I believe I will be academically challenged there.

"Also, the baseball team seems like a great group of people and it is somewhere I can see myself loving. John Carroll was the other top choice and it made it hard because JCU is closer to home and I would know more people there, but it just came down to somewhere I felt like I could succeed and felt more comfortable at."

Farley said he is leaning toward a degree in exercise science, but he is unsure of his major.

The standout middle infielder batted .255 last spring after hitting .300 as a sophomore. Farley also stole 17 bases in 2019 after swiping 26 bags the previous year.

By the way, 2016 Hudson graduate Mac Schoenman owns the school record for stolen bases with 72.

"Blake had a chance to break Mac’s record," said Lewis, who was Farley’s head freshman coach. "He’s both fast and smart. He puts the ball in play. He had some hard luck last year. He hit the ball hard, but it went right at people."

A bigger, strong Farley was anticipating an exhilarating final curtain this spring. Unfortunately, due to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as the coronavirus, the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the entire spring season last month.

"When I heard our season got canceled, I was upset," Farley said. "There was nothing more exciting than the upcoming baseball season. I felt like the team was going to go far this year not only because of all the skill we had, but the fact that we were all close friends would have given us an advantage over others."

The Explorers, who had one of the deepest pitching rotations in the state, finished 23-5 and reached a Division I district title game last spring.

If Lewis was a bit edgy when a ball traveled in Farley’s direction, the veteran coach had no one to blame but himself. That’s because Lewis was the one who made the switch.

"Up until freshman year, I was a second baseman," Farley said. "Every practice my freshman year, I would go to second base and it wasn't until the freshman coach at the time, Coach Lewis, kept pushing me over to shortstop until I naturally went there."

Lewis felt a lot more at ease when he saw his new shortstop slowly begin to master the position. Once that happened, Farley started to resemble former St. Louis Cardinals’ great Ozzie Smith. As a result, the Explorers knew this important fact: Very few ground balls found their way toward the outfield as long as their version of "The Wizard" lurked near or away from second base.

"He’s a supremely great kid," Lewis said. "He works hard and is fundamentally sound. He’s very steady. I would have liked to see what he would have done this year. He worked his tail off during the offseason."

Ohio Wesleyan compiled a 4-4 record prior to having its season cut short by the virus. The Battling Bishops finished 15-22-1 overall and 7-10-1 in the NCAC the previous spring.

Farley certainly would like to turn things around once he joins his new team. He plans to hit the books the same way he hopes to hit future baseballs.

Hard.

"I love a great academic challenge so I want to advance in school and try to find what might interest me to see what profession I want to pursue," Farley said. "As for baseball, I am going to work as hard as I can to compete with every guy on the roster.

"Just like (Hudson head) Coach (Buddy) Dice always said, ‘there's no guarantees.’ I'm going to keep that mindset through college."

He won’t forget about the Explorers even though his days of visiting The Ballpark at Hudson are over. At Hudson, you didn’t play baseball with just teammates and coaches. You played with many of your closest pals too.

"Playing at Hudson was an amazing experience," Farley said. "I'm happy to say that every year, the team turned into a family. The coaches were more than just coaches; they were friends.

"My teammates became some of my best friends. We would all hang out outside of baseball and make great memories to look back at and laugh about and maybe even cry about."

Farley also enjoyed his team’s role of being the hunted rather than the hunter. Whenever the Explorers were in town, opposing coaches always seemed to treat those contests as if it was Game 7 of the World Series.

"I loved that I was on such an elite high school team because everyone put a target on Hudson," Farley said. "No matter who we were playing. Everyone wanted to beat us.

"They always pitched their ace, which made us 10 times better. I loved winning almost every game because I knew the competition wasn't going to be easy."

While it won’t be his decision, Farley may not feel too comfortable returning to his old spot when he makes his way toward Delaware County.

Much like his soon-to-be new home, Farley believes his life is far better on the "left."

"In the beginning, it was difficult," he said. "Over time, everything became easier and easier until the position was natural to me.

"Shortstop really helped me come out of my shell and become a leader on the field. There is not another position on the field I would rather play."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @Faceto_Gannett.