Hudson helps families with real challenges
Foundation works with parents of sick children in need of aid
ATLANTA -- Growing up about 90 minutes southwest of Atlanta in Phenix City, Ala., Tim Hudson dreamed of the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and the other Braves hurlers who annually had the opportunity to pitch amid the stress of the postseason and the chase that preceded it.
Having grown past those days when he was simply the skinny kid with big aspirations, Hudson now finds himself with the opportunity to once again help today's Braves fans experience the October jubilation that he once celebrated from afar.
But life's experiences have allowed him to appreciate the fact that his contributions to the Atlanta community don't have to center on how he fares on the pitcher's mound.
"Baseball is obviously very important to me and my family," Hudson said. "It's what I've always dreamed of doing, and it's allowed me to do things for my family that I never dreamed of doing. But at the same time, in the grand scheme of things, what I do isn't any more important that what the postman or the person working at the mall does. It all boils down to what kind of heart you have and what you are willing to do for humanity."
While losing 14 of their past 23 games entering Monday's contest, the Braves have damaged their once-strong postseason aspirations. The half-game deficit they face in the National League Wild Card standings seems even more significant when you account for the realization that Jair Jurrjens' injured right knee may prevent him from pitching again during the regular season's final week.
Still Hudson can only chuckle when told that he might be challenged to account for Jurrjens' absence by pitching on short rest Tuesday night against the Marlins. The 35-year-old understands the significance of the task and also recognizes that this challenge pales in comparison to the ones experienced by Deshantris Gates and the other needy parents that he has aided through the Hudson Family Foundation.
"When you see what some of these people are going through, you definitely have a different perspective on everything and what is important," Hudson said.
A mother of three, Gates had served as a waitress at Longhorn Steakhouse until May 2009, when her 4-year-old daughter, Jazmine Hudson, suffered a brain aneurysm that resulted in an extended stay on a life-support system at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
While assisting at the Ronald McDonald House one month later, Stephanie Clarke, the executive director of the Hudson Family Foundation, heard Gates' story and introduced her to Tim and his wife, Kim, who were equally moved and motivated to provide assistance.
"[Gates] has been so appreciative of all the help that we've been able to provide," Hudson said. "To be honest, I don't know what she was going to do. The man upstairs kind of put her in front of us, and we were glad to help."
The Hudsons helped Gates locate and afford a rental property in Newnan, away from her former apartment, which had been burglarized while she spent a long stretch with Jazmine in the hospital.
Jazmine still faces daily health-related battles, but her mother's life has proved to be at least a little less stressful. The Hudsons have spent the past year helping her pay her rent, purchase a car and find a job that allows her to spend the necessary time with her children.
Now with the Hudson Family Foundation helping to compile the necessary community service hours needed to qualify, Gates appears to be just a few months away from gaining a house through Habitat for Humanity.
"She was going through a tough stretch and needed somebody to help her find a way to continue providing for her children," Hudson said. "By no means did we do everything for her. She worked hard to get back on track, and she's going to make it."
In its second year of existence, the Hudson Family Foundation has attempted to help other families in similar situations. Its contributions to families with sick children have included paying a few months of utility bills or taking care of a few mortgage payments.
Having regained All-Star status just one year after ending the long rehab process that follows Tommy John surgery, Hudson is one of the top candidates to be named this year's National League Comeback Player of the Year.
But he'll be the first to admit that his battle to return to top form pales in comparison to the daily battles experienced by some of the families he has worked to help.
"I was dealing something that could have threatened my career and my livelihood," Hudson said. "It might have seemed potentially devastating, but in the grand scheme of things, I wasn't going to die, and my family wasn't going to starve. There are a lot of other people who aren't so lucky and have to deal with much tougher issues every day."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.