Giants’ Hudson feels tug of family, may make this his last season
Tim Hudson thought his two daughters would want him home, and his son would want him to keep playing. But as he puts it, in his soft Alabama drawl, "it’s kind of the other way around."
Kade, 10, misses his daddy badly, wishes Tim could attend his baseball games like all of the other dads. Tess, 11, and Kennedie, 13, are more accustomed to their father’s lifestyle, considering it is all they have ever known.
Family is one reason Tim says he is "definitely leaning" toward retirement at the end of his season with the San Francisco Giants. Talking about Kade, knowing people ask him, "Tim Hudson’s your dad?" he acknowledges that for the boy, "It hurts."
Hudson, who turns 40 on July 14, has won 214 games in 17 major-league seasons, earned more than $120 million, even won a World Series — finally — in 2014. But players, in the end, are sons and brothers, husbands and fathers.
They miss their families. Their families miss them.
"They all have their moments," Hudson says of his children. "They all love the summer when they’re out (in San Francisco). It’s the beginning of the season, going to spring training, then after the summer when they get to go home, that’s when it’s tough."
Yet Hudson, who faces the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday (Fox Sports 1, 4 p.m. ET), will not completely rule out pitching in 2016 if his body is in decent shape at the end of this season. And his wife, Kim, says she will not push him to end his career and come home to Auburn, Ala.
"I’ve always told him, ‘I’ll listen. I just won’t weigh in,’" Kim says. "I’ve talked with other wives who we played with and are now done. They all tell me the same thing: ‘That’s a decision they have to make, if they’re blessed enough to make it on their own and not forced out by injury.’
"I would never say, ‘You’ve got to retire. I can’t handle it here anymore.’ I tell him, ‘You want to keep playing, we’ll keep going.’ But if he’s ready to be done, we’re ready to have him home. Either way is great with us."
Hudson says he is fortunate to have pitched this long, considering that he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2008, back surgery in ’11 and right ankle surgery in ’13. He had additional surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle in January, and his improved health is reflected in his early performance.
"I feel pretty good," Hudson says, smiling. "I feel as good as most 40-year-olds can feel trying to play a young man’s game."
For which the Giants are grateful.
Two members of their rotation, right-handers Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, are on the disabled list. A third, righty Ryan Vogelsong, is struggling, Hudson, on the other hand, has produced three quality starts in his first four outings, compiling a 3.91 ERA.
Not bad, considering that the bone spurs in his right ankle led to issues in his right hip late last season, leaving Hudson to remark, “There isn’t a whole lot you can do at that point of the year except medicate."
And so he did, desperate to contribute to the Giants’ postseason push, then assist in their playoff run. He had appeared in six previous postseasons — four with the Athletics, two with the Braves — and lost in the first round every time.
Last year, of course, was different.
"Did I think we were going to win the World Series when I signed with San Francisco? I hoped," Hudson says. "You have this scenario played out in your head, this perfect scenario.
"After it all was said and done, I was just like, ‘The stars aligned. The baseball gods were finally shining on me, one time.’"
Or as Kim says, "If you were to write a movie about his career and at the end he finally won the World Series after never being out of the first round, it would be like a cheesy Disney movie, you know?"
The Giants, after missing the playoffs in 2013, won 88 games to grab a wild card, then defeated the Pirates on the road in the NL Wld Card Game.
Hudson started the Giants’ victory over the Nationals in Game 2 of the Division Series and their win over the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS, lost Game 3 of the World Series to the Royals.
If this is my last year, I want to make sure not only I enjoy it, but everyone else does as well.
Then came Game 7, Hudson vs. Jeremy Guthrie.
"That was probably the most excitement I’ve had on a baseball field since my big-league debut, as far being anxious, those emotions that you have out there on the mound," Hudson says. "My big-league debut, it was not overwhelming, but it was almost like, ‘Catch your breath, let your heart rate slow down a little bit.’ Game 7 was similar.
He lasted just 1 2/3 innings.
"I knew coming into the game, the first jam I got in, I probably was going to come out," Hudson says. "I would have loved to have gone six or seven innings. But you can’t afford to let your pitcher work himself in and out of jams in those situations.
"I came out of the game. It was kind of strange. I knew my season was over. I wasn’t going to touch the mound again. But I was like, ‘Now I’m just going to be the biggest cheerleader in the dugout.’"
Jeremy Affeldt pitched the next 2 1/3 innings before giving way to Madison Bumgarner, who pitched the final five ("I saw that big, goofy left-hander warming up down there," Hudson says, chuckling. "I knew it was a matter of time.")
Bumgarner didn’t warm up until Hudson was out of the game, but you get the idea.
I’m obviously going to savor every moment of it, be the best teammate I can.
"We’d come home and people would say, ‘I can’t believe Tim only pitched (1 2/3),’" Kim says. "We never talked about that. He won the World Series. It doesn’t matter if he threw one pitch. That’s how he’s always been. He just wanted to win."
Now comes the last hurrah.
Kim and the kids recently came out for a week to spend time with Tim at the house the family rents in San Francisco. They will return as soon as school is out, then travel with him on most trips during the summer.
Tim plans to make sure his parents, Ronnie and Sue, see him pitch on the East Coast, along with his older brothers, Ronnie and Keith. All live in the Auburn area.
"If this is my last year, I want to make sure not only I enjoy it, but everyone else does as well," Tim says.
"I’m obviously going to savor every moment of it, be the best teammate I can. Sitting in the dugout, seeing fans of the other teams, those are things, when you’re not putting on this uniform every day, you’re not going to have the chance to do it. Once you’re out of the fraternity, you’re on the outside looking in, as a player."
Kim, who works three days week as an attorney, says she does not expect it to be difficult for Tim to occupy his time once he is retired. On days she works during the offseason, Tim will take the kids to school, pick up his father and head to a farm that he owns about 30 miles south. The two will spend the day at the farm — "There are deer there. He’s got big tractors. He’s clearing stuff, this and that," Kim says — and then Tim will pick the kids up from school and help shuttle them to practices and whatever else.
Kim expects Tim to miss the companionship of his teammates, but says she can help him channel his competitive spirit: "I’ll have to take him bowling or something and beat him."
Is she a better bowler than Tim?
"I can’t beat him, I don’t think," Kim says, laughing. "We can’t even do stuff like that because we fight. And I wonder why our kids get mad and throw their bats."
Mom is competitive. Dad is competitive.
Dad, listed at 6 feet 1 and 174 pounds, has been a professional baseball player since 1997, when the Athletics took him in the sixth round of the draft. He overcame an industry bias against short right-handers to pitch more than 3,000 innings, and now he can relish it all.
"Where I’m from, being a small right-hander from Auburn, Alabama, who would have ever thought I’d play 17 years?" Tim Hudson says.