Daniel Hudson need not prove to anyone his commitment to family over baseball. This is the guy, of course, who missed Game 1 of last fall’s National League Championship Series so he could fly home to Phoenix and be with his wife, Sara, as she gave birth to the couple’s third daughter.
So it should come as no surprise to learn that Daniel and Sara thought long and hard about their plan for the abbreviated 2020 season and whether it was worth the risk for the veteran reliever to leave the rest of his family and join the Nationals for three or four months.
Their final, joint decision: Daniel would come to D.C. to pitch, while Sara and the girls stayed with other family members on the East Coast before eventually returning to Phoenix once the school year begins. They both agreed it was the right decision for them, despite the sacrifices involved.
“It’s probably more difficult on my wife than anybody,” Hudson said, “having three kids, every one of them under 6, by herself. But she was willing to make the sacrifice, and I felt like I needed to be here with the guys to try to get this going.”
The circumstances obviously are different, but the Hudsons felt like they already had some experience in this realm.
Last summer, he was pitching for the Blue Jays while the rest of the family was home in Arizona. When the Nationals acquired him at the trade deadline, he came to D.C. on his own. The family came to visit briefly around Labor Day, then came back for the World Series. Otherwise, they were separated throughout the most dramatic season of his 10-year career.
“It’s nothing we haven’t been through before,” Hudson said. “It’s just part of the job. I feel like it’s harder on the spouses than anything. They deserve all the credit, not us. We just play baseball. They hold the fort down. They’re rock stars, in my eyes anyways.”
It’s a common refrain from ballplayers during this unprecedented summer, but it’s especially true for Hudson, who unexpectedly found himself at the center of a national debate on paternity leave when he chose (with the Nationals’ full blessing) to miss the first NLCS game in club history last October.
Everything turned out just fine for the Nats, of course. Sean Doolittle closed out Game 1 in St. Louis. Hudson then rejoined the team in time to close out Game 2. Three nights later, he recorded the final out of the franchise’s first pennant clincher. And two weeks after that, he struck out Michael Brantley in the bottom of the ninth in Houston and chucked his glove to the backstop to ignite the biggest Washington baseball celebration in 95 years.
It was the final, fitting moment of Hudson’s breakthrough season after a career of ups and downs and injuries. And it only left him determined to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
Despite some concerns the Nationals wouldn’t want to make a long-term commitment to 33-year-old with an injury history, the club made a two-year, $11 million offer and he returned to share the late-inning duties with Doolittle.
Now Hudson is out to show the team made the right decision.
“It’s always something that’s on my mind,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to prove that I can be here for the long run. To repeat what I did last year, that would be amazing.”
Manager Davey Martinez rode Hudson as much as he could during his three months in uniform last season, probably too much. But now that he’s had plenty of time to recover, Hudson feels like he’s ready for as much workload as is needed from him in a shortened, 60-game season.
“It’s kind of up to Davey and the staff, really,” he said. “If they need me to pitch, I’ll pitch. If I’m physically able to throw them 40 games and they need me to throw them 40 games, I’ll throw them 40 games.”
Hudson doesn’t have a lot of time to get himself ready. Opening night against the Yankees is 11 days away.
“I couldn’t remember the last time I had thrown a breaking ball to a hitter. In two weeks, I’ve got to maybe face Aaron Judge in the eighth inning with a lead,” he said. “So let’s just go get ‘em and just go from there. Everybody’s going to have to do it. So it’s not just me.”
And if this season somehow ends with Hudson on the mound recording the final out? Will he get another opportunity to chuck his glove to the backstop?
“Well,” he mused, “if I throw it, I’ve probably got to go pick it up myself, right?”