SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Gardner previews the NLCS showdown between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
ST. LOUIS – Daniel Hudson dumped his social media accounts a couple of years back, a frequent maneuver for professional athletes increasingly under a microscope and a move that allowed him, he said, “to try and focus on more positive things.”
And as Friday turned to Saturday, and his absence from the Washington Nationals for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series to witness the birth of his third daughter became a particularly noxious talking point in certain corners of media, it was easy to see the upside.
Over 48 of the most exhilarating hours of his life, where his personal and professional obligations intersected in a most profound way, Hudson was largely able to tune out the toxicity, to turn inward and absorb the love of his family and the support of his teammates and organization that left no doubt what the right choice was.
“Needless to say,” Hudson said Saturday before Game 2 at Busch Stadium, “my oldest was pretty excited to meet her new baby sister yesterday. To be able to have that experience with my family and be there for the whole thing was everything I could have imagined.
“Obviously, it is my third kid. And top-three things in my life — 1A, 1B and 1C – are being there for the birth of all three of my daughters. The organization was awesome for me, to let me be a part of that.”
In a karmic twist, the Nationals more than took care of business on the field, too. Their 2-0 victory in Game 1 required the services of just two pitchers – starter Anibal Sanchez and reliever Sean Doolittle, who has largely ceded closer duties to Hudson as the playoffs neared.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez suggested to Hudson in a text message that they name the child Aniballa Sean, and sure enough, Hudson and wife, Sara, had not yet picked out a name.
After a brief night of sleep, sanity prevailed, and Millie Hudson emerged as the name to join her older sisters, who are 5 and 3.
Millie’s birth and Hudson’s fast break to St. Louis capped a wild three-day sequence that began Wednesday night in Los Angeles when the Nationals came back to stun the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
Sara’s original due date was Oct. 14, but the couple figured it wiser to try and schedule an induction before the start of the NLCS; better miss Game 1, he figured, than a possible Game 6 or 7.
So Hudson took a 7 a.m. PT flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix on Thursday. Unfortunately, the Hudsons were lower on the priority list for a hospital bed since they were planning an induction.
And so Millie’s arrival came later than projected, leaving the Nationals little choice but to place Hudson on the paternity list for Game 1.
The move was widely approved in the Nationals’ hierarchy – “I never missed any of my kids’ births; I told him it was important you’re with your wife,” Martinez said – but met with a smattering of external scorn. Former Miami Marlins president David Samson was among those tweeting disapproval.
For Hudson, being jobless on March 21, to signed with Toronto shortly after, to traded to Washington July 31, thrust into a playoff role and then, suddenly, at the center of a national debate on worker rights, was a bit of a whirlwind.
“Hey, life comes at you fast, man,” he said.
“I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs. Everybody’s got their opinions, man, and I really value my family and my family time. The support I got from this organization, and most people – obviously, we were made aware of a lot of negative comments, but everybody’s got their opinions and everybody’s got their own priorities.
“But this organization was 100 percent on board with what my priorities are, and I’m really appreciative of that.”