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‘More than a game’: How Dawsonville’s Ole Miss commit overcame sudden weight loss disorder
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Hudson Sapp throws the first pitch of the 2019 baseball season against the Chestatee War Eagles on Feb. 13. - photo by Bob Christian

Generally, after Thanksgiving, people start noticing they put on weight due to holiday meals and tempting snacks. But in 2019 Dawson County High School baseball player Hudson Sapp had the opposite problem. 

In early Dec. 2019, Sapp realized that he was actually losing weight at a steady rate. In just three weeks, Sapp had lost 28 pounds. 

After consulting with his family, including Tigers Baseball Head Coach Dwayne Sapp, they thought it could be diabetes or mono perhaps. 

But after a doctor's visit and blood tests, Sapp was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that was causing his thyroid to become hyperactive, making him tire easily, causing shortness of breath, anxiety and inexplicable weight loss. 

“Actually, I was pretty calm because I knew it could be treated,” Sapp said. “At times, it was frustrating to deal with, but I knew it could be worse.” 

At one point, Sapp considered not playing baseball the upcoming spring season to make sure he was healthy enough to continue his baseball career at the University of Mississippi, where he had accepted a scholarship to play baseball during his freshman year at Dawson County High School. 

But taking a break from baseball, a sport that he has been a part of since he was in a stroller, would have been a huge life adjustment for Sapp. 

“It's hard to remember many days in our lives not including baseball,” Sapp said. “I’m not sure where I’d be without it. It's my family’s life. It's just what we do.”

Sapp said his favorite memory playing at Dawson County High School was when he was the starting pitcher in Game 2 of a best-of-three series during his freshman year. It was the first round of the state playoffs. His brother, current Georgia Highlands baseball player Palmer Sapp, pitched after him. They won the game with dad coaching from the dugout. 

Three years later as Sapp dealt with his Graves Disease diagnosis, the athlete knew his senior season would require more work than any before to return back to his original health. 

Sapp said thanks to protein shakes and countless hours in the gym, he slowly grew back to what would become his new normal. 

“The biggest thing I had to overcome was accepting and knowing I would get better,” Sapp said. “I just wanted to be better immediately but it took time to figure it all out.”

Sapp said part of his frustrations came from people who didn’t understand what was going on with him. Aside from his parents, nobody knew how severe his situation was and how much it had affected him physically and mentally. 

“I did my best to be myself and act the same so everybody would just assume I was fine,” he said. 

All Sapp wanted to do was get back onto the field where he felt most comfortable, but at the beginning of the season, his play was still at a lower level than he would have liked. 

“In my head, I had all these goals I wanted to achieve and different expectations but my body had changed so much,” Sapp said. “It was hard to accept but after realizing that I couldn’t control what was going on, I tried to stay patient, knowing I would eventually get better.”

With his strength and power down at the start of the season, Sapp began making simple adjustments to his swing. His new swing, combined with his newfound patience, saw his personal statistics skyrocket. 

The week of March 9, Sapp went 6-6 at the plate, with a walk-off grand slam and two doubles. He expected his numbers to stay at that same level until the COVID-19 outbreak cut his senior season short. 

“Though the season is cut short, I’m just thankful I was still healthy enough to play the game I love so much,” Sapp said. “I’m definitely stronger mentally after going through this.” 

Over the next few years, Sapp’s new routine will consist of having blood drawn every couple of months to make sure he remains healthy and taking pills every day to keep things regulated. 

Becoming a better person and player is now what Sapp is most looking forward during his time at Ole Miss this August. Bringing a national championship back to Oxford, Mississippi would be fine with him too, he said. 

“When I’m working or trying to achieve something, I try to outwork everyone else and not have any regrets no matter what I do in life,” Sapp said. “Be thankful for what you have and stay positive. Just gotta be patient and continue to be the best you can day in and day out.”