It was bad.
“Hey, I got released,” he soon texted his wife, Sara, while packing up his locker. “I’ll give you a call when I leave.”
But what happened next, a blur burned into his memory, changed Hudson’s life forever. He agreed to a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, hours after the Angels released him, and was thrust into high-leverage spots. He excelled enough to get noticed by the trade deadline and was acquired by the Washington Nationals, a team in dire need of bullpen help, for pitcher Kyle Johnston.
Then he stumbled into the closer role, a role he never wanted, and became the anchor of a six-man bullpen. Then he was on the mound Oct. 30 with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, two strikes to Michael Brantley and, with the Nationals leading 6-2, a chance to deliver a title.
His 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame was fit for screens around the world. Hudson threw Brantley a slider, Brantley missed it, Hudson chucked his glove at the Nationals’ dugout, and the celebration began.
At first, in a mesh of smiles and flying arms, Hudson could not reflect on how improbable it was that he — a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient, cut in March — was part of the greatest moment in Nationals history. But he can now reflect on how he always will be.
“It’s kind of crazy to think how many people will remember it, that I’m part of their sports fandom and their sports memories for the rest of their lives,” Hudson said. “Everybody grows up playing baseball in their backyard, whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter, you say: ‘Three-two! Bottom of the ninth! Game 7!’ You either throw the pitch or you hit the home run to win it.
“That’s every kid’s fantasy. I lived it out. There’s, I don’t know, how many World Series have there been?”
There have been 115.
“Okay, so to think about it in the history of the game, I am one of 100 and some odd guys, of 19,000 to ever play major league baseball, to throw the last pitch of the World Series, to close out the World Series,” he continued. “You start putting it in those types of perspectives, and to be a part of any group like that, a special group, you know, it’s very special to think about.”
That final pitch of Game 7 was the most recent thrown in a real major league game. That might stand for a while. Sports are paused indefinitely amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, and when this season will start, and how long it will last, is anyone’s guess. So Hudson is at home in Phoenix, with Sara and their three daughters, unsure how to navigate the extended free time players rarely have.
But he did know Sunday would feel much different than last March 22. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Nationals over the winter. He saw it as a final chance to cash in, as a worn-down veteran with an injury history, the sort of pitcher who is being nudged into retirement.
He expected to have a quiet finish to the weekend, then begin looking for a throwing partner. He could swim with daughters Baylor and Parker. He would feed Millie, whose birth in October famously conflicted with Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. And he wouldn’t think much about getting released by the Angels.
“It’s not a date that I’m going to circle on the calendar every single year,” Hudson said with a laugh. “I played for two teams now, won a World Series since then, and it’s so far in the rear view that I didn’t even remember what day it was until you told me.”
Hudson will circle Oct. 30, 2019, though, and never forget it. His phone is full of videos from old friends, high school classmates, relatives who filmed themselves reacting to him striking out Brantley, shaking cameras and all. He’ll often pull up a few of them to watch. He imagines there being a Nationals museum one day, maybe at the ballpark, where video of the pitch, the glove throw, the whole sequence, plays on an endless loop.
Fans would stop in front of it. They would smile. They would linger for a minute, lose themselves in the past, relive that feeling and remember where they were. Maybe it was a crowded bar. Maybe it was the middle seat of an airplane above the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe it was home, wherever home was then, where they sat, then stood, then screamed, knees shaking, at the autumn sky.
Maybe Hudson will visit, see himself frozen at 32 and wonder where the years went. He is already looking forward to it.
“My clip could be played for decades,” he said. “I mean, how cool is that?”
Read more coverage from Post Sports: