Tommy Hicks: Hudson inducted into hall of fame

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The Atlanta Braves recently made the second-best decision in the franchise’s history in regards to pitcher Tim Hudson; they inducted the All-Star and Phenix City native into their Hall of Fame last week.

He joined Braves’ announcer Joe Simpson in this year’s induction class and the duo take their spots alongside some of the greats of the game, including Hank Aaron, Greg Maddox, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Dale Murphy and a host of other all-time greats with the franchise.

The best decision the Braves ever made regarding Hudson was to work a trade with the Oakland A’s to have Hudson join their pitching staff in 2005.

It worked out pretty well for Hudson, too, who had the opportunity to return home so to speak and play ball. The Glenwood and Chattahoochee Valley star was also a standout at Auburn, where he was a member of a team that reached the College World Series.

The combination of Hudson and the Braves was a match made in baseball heaven.

“It’s very exciting, very humbling,” Hudson said during this induction speech, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story written by Gabriel Burns. “To put me along the likes of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones. It’s just very surreal.

“At the same time, I’m very grateful just for the opportunity to put this uniform on. But for nine years, the prime years of my career, were something that was very special. They thought enough of me to put me in their Hall of Fame.

“Gosh, so many great players have put on a Braves uniform over the years,” he continued. “You look at the list with all the Hall of Famers for this organization and it’s a who’s who of Major League Baseball. It’s sometimes like, man, it’s really awesome. You’ve got to pinch yourself once and a while.

“I was back there in the green room and Glav and Smoltz came in, Andruw (Jones) and Dale; Dale’s a guy that I watched as a kid growing up and through high school. So it’s just legends in the game, legends for this organization and this city. To be considered one of them is truly an honor.”

Simpson had kind words for his fellow inductee as well.

“Tim Hudson has always been one of my favorites because he embodies — and there are not that many guys — he embodies that rare player who can have fun, be a jokester and play pranks on his teammates, laugh and be popular in the clubhouse,” Simpson said. “But when it was his turn to pitch, his day on the mound, there was nobody who was a tougher competitor. He knew how to get that going and get it right every time. I admired that about him.”

It wasn’t simply Hudson’s command of his pitches that made him a standout at every level in which he pitched. More than his pitching style or his variety of pitches, Hudson was a standout because of his demeanor, his attitude on the mound and his desire to be the best pitcher he could be at that moment and with every pitch.

The player who flashed one of the quickest smiles and easiest laughs off the field — and on the field at times — was the same guy who wore the mask of concentration as intently and comfortably as anyone who has ever taken the hill in the majors.

His career is defined by success, defined by that laser focus and, to borrow a Southern term, his want-to. Put all those things together and you have a player who enjoyed a 17-year career in which he won 222 games, struck our more than 2,000 batters earned, as a member of the San Francisco Giants after his stint with the Braves, a World Series ring.

He was a competitor, from the start of his career to its finish, and the Braves enjoyed probably the prime of his competitiveness.

“I felt like my nine years here were nine of the best years of my career, both on the field and personally,” he said. “My family grew up here in Atlanta. My kids grew up here in Atlanta. Some memories that I’ll always cherish,’’ he told the AJC.

“Just for the fact this organization thinks enough of me to come in and to put me along the likes of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones. It’s just very surreal. At the same time, I’m very grateful just for one, to come here and for the opportunity to put this uniform on. But to be able to do it for nine years, the prime years of my career, was something that was very special.  To look back and see that they thought enough of my time here to put me in their Hall of Fame is really special.”

Now it’s time to start considering Tim Hudson for that other Hall of Fame.

Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at  thixx25@gmail.com.