For Tim Hudson, Tuesday night was a night that will be with him always. It ended with him waving to the roaring crowd at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Hudson earned his 200th major league win as the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 8-1. He hit an opposite-field home run just over the fence in right. He became the first former SEC pitcher to win 200 major league games – 105 with the Braves and 95 with Oakland Athletics.
And a remarkable journey continued.
When Auburn baseball coach Hal Baird signed Hudson out of Chattahoochee Valley Community College in 1995, he wasn’t sure he was getting.
Hudson was a junior college All-American outfielder, but could he hit Southeastern Conference pitching? Baird was getting a pitcher who had dominated at Glenwood School in Phenix City and at Chattahoochee Valley, but he could he get SEC hitters out?
Hudson, at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, didn’t look the part. He wasn’t highly recruited.
“We had some questions about those numbers,” Baird says. “We didn’t have questions for long.”
After Baird helped him develop a split-finger fastball, Hudson became the most dominant pitcher and the best all-around player in college baseball.
“His first two or three outings weren’t particularly good,” Baird says. “We tried to do a couple of things, and the splitter was part of it. We lowered his arm angle. He was so athletic that he picked those things up immediately.
“From that point on, he only got hit hard one time in two seasons. His senior year, he really didn’t get hit at all.”
In 1997, Hudson was 15-2 with a 2.97 ERA. He hit .395 with 18 home runs and drove in 95 runs. And when he wasn’t pitching, he played centerfield like few in the college game. He led Auburn to the College World Series and won the Rotary Smith Award as the nation’s top player.
“In my mind, that’s the greatest single year any college baseball player ever had when you look at it in total,” Baird says. “It truly was a remarkable season. I’ve never seen anything like it. He was so good at all of it. He was our best pitcher, our best hitter and our best outfielder. He was the most versatile player we ever had.”
In college and in the major leagues, Hudson has been immensely popular with his teammates. On the field, he has been a study in intensity.
“I wanted to be a winner,” Hudson says. “I wanted to be the best. If you want success, you have to be intense. It helps you get through games when you aren’t at your best.”
Through it all, Hudson has been the same class act he was when he arrived at Auburn as relative unknown junior college transfer. He and his wife, Kim, have given their time and their money to help those less fortunate. They formed the Hudson Family Foundation that is “committed to making a positive and long lasting impact in the lives of children who have a genuine need for assistance with regard to a specific physical, emotional or financial circumstance.”
Hudson and Kim live in Auburn with their daughters Kennedie and Tess and their son Kade. They are intensely loyal to their alma mater and their community, giving of themselves and their resources.
“He’s as good a person as he is a player,” Baird says. “He’s a terrific representative of Auburn University.”