ST. LOUIS - Daniel Hudson boarded a flight in Phoenix at 6 a.m. Mountain time today, landing in St. Louis at 10:30 a.m. Central time. By 12:45 p.m., the Nationals closer was holding a press conference at Busch Stadium, detailing his whirlwind 48 hours that began with a Game 5 National League Division Series clinch in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, including the birth of his daughter, Millie, in Phoenix on Friday and now a chance to pitch in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series later this afternoon.
Hudson’s story took on a life of its own, with opinions flying in every direction about his decision to miss Game 1 against the Cardinals. For the 32-year-old reliever, it was never up for discussion.
“I knew I was going to go, no matter what,” he said. “I didn’t know that this was a new thing, to have a playoff paternity leave list. I had no idea. I was, like, I can’t be the only person to have a baby in the middle of the postseason. And for it to blow up like it did ... man, it’s kind of crazy. But I didn’t really give much thought about not going. My family is top priority for me.”
The Nationals wholly agreed with Hudson. Manager Davey Martinez encouraged him to take the time off to be with his wife, Sara, and two older daughters as the newest member of their family arrived. Teammates and front office members offered complete support.
“I never missed any of my kids’ births,” said Martinez, whose playing days came long before Major League Baseball allowed for formal paternity leave. “I think that’s important. I told them that. Because, believe it or not, he wanted to be with the team. And I told him: ‘I think that it’s important that you’re with your wife.’
Hudson’s wife’s due date was Monday, but once the Nationals reached the NLDS and knew he’d be in Los Angeles for Game 5, they decided to try to induce birth Thursday. In an ideal world, he then would’ve been able to fly to St. Louis on Friday and be available to pitch in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Mother Nature - and an overcrowded maternity ward at the hospital - prevented the process from going exactly as planned, so they had to wait until Friday for the birth. Everything went smoothly, though, and everyone’s healthy.
Hudson said he was able to watch most of the game from the postpartum room at the hospital, though because he missed the start he didn’t realize Aníbal Sánchez had a no-hitter going until much later in the game. He watched as Sánchez went 7 2/3 innings, then as Sean Doolittle recorded the final four outs to wrap up a 2-0 victory.
“It was awesome,” Hudson said. “It was really fun to watch.”
Martinez sent Hudson a text after the game, with a specific name suggestion for the new baby: Annabella Sean. They actually didn’t pick Millie until later in the evening, but they appreciated the suggestion.
“My wife got a good kick out of that,” Hudson said. “That was pretty funny.”
As Hudson was understandably preoccupied with what was going on at the hospital, his story was going viral around the country. Most offered support for a father choosing to miss a postseason ballgame in order to be with his wife and newborn daughter, but a few dissenters made their voices heard on social media, creating something of a firestorm.
Hudson, who stopped using social media a few years ago, eventually learned of what the world was saying about him and his situation. He took it all in stride.
“I was just telling somebody, I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs,” he said. “Hey, life comes at you fast, man. I don’t know how that happened and how I became the face for whatever conversation was going on.
“Everybody’s got their opinions, man, and I really value my family and my family time. ... And this organization was 100 percent on board with what my priorities are, and I’m really appreciative of that.”
Hudson referred to the birth of his three daughters as “the top three things in my life,” and he wasn’t about to experience it from afar.
“I heard somebody say one time: ‘Baseball’s what I do. It’s not who I am,’ ” he said. “And once you have kids, or once I had kids, it really resonated with me. So to be able to be a part of that was awesome. And like I said, I can’t thank the Nationals organization enough for being understanding.”