Father, husband, pitcher: Daniel Hudson has his priorities straight, and Nats are better for it

Washington Post Sports 1 day ago

Daniel Hudson can talk and talk about his decision, but that would lend credence to the idea that it was a decision at all.

“I knew I was going to go no matter what,” Hudson said Saturday.

That’s really all we need to know. Hudson is a pitcher and a father. He is a teammate and a husband. He has a job and a life. His non-choice was to be with his family for the birth of his third child Thursday. That little Millie Hudson didn’t arrive until Friday morning is an inconvenience, not a catastrophe nor a debate. That it could have impacted Game 1 of the National League Championship Series is a byproduct of what Hudson needed to do, and nothing more.

“We didn’t exactly plan to have a baby in the middle of the playoffs,” Hudson said, a few hours before securing the final two outs of a 3-1 victory in Game 2 that gave the Washington Nationals a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven National League Championship Series.

The Washington Nationals won the first game of the NLCS over the St. Louis Cardinals without Hudson, who arrived via a midseason trade and became the club’s closer out of necessity. All this time, his wife had a due date: Oct. 14. That led the Daniel and Sara Hudson to get out their calendars and start mapping out days. If the Nats won the wild-card game, and if the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers was pushed to a decisive fifth game, maybe Daniel could shoot home to Phoenix, Sara could pop out the kid on command, and the Nats’ run could be continued unhindered.

Except this whole miracle-of-life thing can’t really be coordinated on iCal.

“You try to plan something,” Hudson said, “and everything goes crazy.”

Try to make a controversy out of this. I mean, if you’re a small-minded thief of a washed-up former baseball executive — like David Samson, the ex-president of the Marlins — then maybe you try to label Hudson’s move as “unreal,” and poke the bear.

“Only excuse would be a problem with the birth or health of baby or mother,” Samson tweeted Friday. “If all is well, he needs to get to St. Louis. Inexcusable.”

Nice job, buddy! Encourage speculation about the health of the mother in a private moment, all while questioning the father’s professional commitment. But that’s where Hudson found himself Friday, holding his youngest daughter as he tried to watch his teammates take a step toward a pennant, all while finding himself as the main talking point of a discourse on commitment to family and profession, on the balance between home and work.

“I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs,” Hudson said. “Like, 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.”

You know who thinks that’s ridiculous? The Nationals.

“It was a no-brainer,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said.

That’s not just because the Nats survived — and even thrived — without Hudson in Game 1. They got 7 ⅔ sparkling innings from Aníbal Sánchez, then four rocking-chair outs from Sean Doolittle. After the game, Manager Dave Martinez texted his absent closer: “Hey, I got a name for your little girl: Anibala Sean Hudson.”

“My wife got a good kick out of that,” Hudson said.

What the Hudsons didn’t get a kick out of: the wait for little Millie to arrive. The rules at their Phoenix hospital, which only make sense: Those mothers who are having children naturally get their turns before those who are hoping to induce. So even though Hudson had a 7 a.m. flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix on Thursday — only hours after the Nats had closed out the Dodgers — Sara wasn’t immediately able to get a room. They had to wait until Thursday night to check into the hospital. Millie didn’t arrive until early Friday.

“Stubborn little thing,” Martinez said.

That’s important to keep in mind here if you have even the slightest inclination to believe Hudson was shirking his duties. In fact, he tried to set up the birth of his child around the baseball schedule. But after Millie arrived, it’s not like there’s unlimited flights from Phoenix to St. Louis, and it’s not like — even if Hudson could have caught one — he would have been mentally or physically prepared to protect a 2-0 lead in the ninth.

“Not a lot of sleep the last few nights,” Hudson said.

That’s what happened. The point is, the Nats bought into the idea.

“These decisions are easy,” Rizzo said. “A happy player is a performing player. We’ve got to take care of our people. You have to treat this like a family. And the important thing is, we’ve got a new little member of the Nationals family.”

There was a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago, when baseball executives would have uttered something far different, and likely unprintable. We are no longer in that time. MLB first instituted a paternity list — a minimum of one day missed, a maximum of three — in 2011. But they hadn’t considered such an accommodation for October until the case of a Toronto pitcher named Aaron Loup in 2015.

Loup’s wife unexpectedly gave birth during the division series, and because there was no way to replace him on the roster, the Blue Jays had to play short. That offseason, MLB changed the rules. Yet the postseason paternity list had never been used — until now.

“I was like, ‘I can’t be the only person to have a baby in the middle of the postseason,’ ” Hudson said. “And for it to blow up like it did, man, it’s kind of crazy.”

What’s crazy is how big leaguers used to handle all this. Rizzo pointed to one of his own lieutenants, Bob Boone, who had a 19-year major league career.

“I don’t think he saw any of his three kids born,” Rizzo said. “We’re in a different world now.”

Thank goodness. This is what any employee wants: The backing of his bosses and his colleagues so he can make the best decisions for himself and his family. That’s all this is.

“I heard somebody say one time: Baseball’s what I do, it’s not who I am,” Hudson said. “Once I had kids, it really resonated with me. So to be able to be a part of that was awesome. And can’t thank the Nationals organization enough for being understanding.”

What a ride. What a story. Oh, and Daniel, one last thing: Congratulations. Now, there’s a World Series berth at stake. Go ahead and pitch.

For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.


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