Atlanta pitcher receives support from inside and outside of baseball
By Steve Hummer
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA -- There is no good and proper way to go about mangling one's ankle, but Tim Hudson and his family have come about as close as humanly possible to doing it with style.
Here was a crew that more than forgave the New York Mets player who Wednesday night accidentally ran over Hudson's leg with such force he could have left tire tracks. It thanked him, as well.
Hudson's wife, Kim, sent out the message on Twitter to Eric Young Jr.: "Thank you for playing the game the right way. You're obviously one of the good guys."
Young was not only in tears as various medical staff tended to Hudson (Glenwood, CVCC, Auburn) on the field, he was just as shaken when he visited the pitcher afterward. No matter that witnesses deemed the play unavoidable, Hudson covering first, feeling around for the bag with his foot as Young hustled to beat the play.
"Plain and simple, my heart hurt for Eric Young Jr.," Kim explained, via an email exchange with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"It was obvious that the play really upset him while he was on the field, but he was also the first one in the doctor's room in the Mets clubhouse to come check on Tim after the game. Tim felt bad for him as well. We just wanted him to know that not only do we respect the hard way that he plays the game -- that play included -- but also that his true compassion for Tim was very much appreciated."
And how about the messages sent the Hudsons' way from one of their core charities, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta? Included were photos of young patients holding up baseballs with get-well messages scribbled on them.
Sick kids wishing a ballplayer a speedy recovery -- now there's a variation on a theme.
The reaction to the rather graphic collision at first base has befitted a 38-year-old who has slogged his way
through at least parts of 15 seasons and made a lot of friends along the way.
"It really is hard to fully explain how it feels to receive the type of support that we've gotten the last few days," Hudson's wife said.
Fans and players from around baseball reached out to the Hudsons. Kim said she lost it a little for the only time after receiving an email from a friend at Children's Healthcare, informing her that the staff was wearing Braves paraphernalia and the hospital was serving ballpark food in honor of one of their big supporters, Hudson. She said she has received text and Facebook messages of support from parents of patients the couple has met through the years, including some whose children did not beat their cancers.
"Truly, nothing like that has ever been done for us before, and I can't imagine that there will ever be anything better," Kim said.
As a surgeon screwed Hudson's right ankle back together and repaired a torn ligament Friday, all the Braves and the 38-year-old starter knew for certain was that he was lost for this season. It leaves a large experience void in the Braves' rotation, drastically reducing the staff's average age.
"We have a young rotation, but you've got to grow up sooner or later. Somewhere down the line you have to experience your first pennant run," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Hudson faces at least a three-month rehabilitation, and all the unknowns that come with a pitcher of his age, on the last year of a contract, trying to come back from a major injury to the ankle on the side he uses to drive off the rubber.
What Hudson is by next spring training, nobody can say for sure. More of a certainty now is what Hudson is not.
He is not mortally wounded.
Kris Medlen's locker is next to Hudson in the Braves' clubhouse. He says there is no one in the room he has looked to more than his neighbor, whether it was for advice on how to attack hitters or how to recover from elbow surgery. After a brief convalescence, his counselor will return.
"Obviously, it will be a little different, but I'll still be able to talk to him. It's not like he's dead," Medlen said.
Another young starter, Mike Minor, said of Hudson, "He's not scared of anybody, in either league." Then Friday, Minor went out and pitched with similar fearlessness against a loaded St. Louis lineup. If Hudson can pass along that trait down the stretch, he still can be of service, even in a cast.
Hudson also is not Derek Jeter.
The comparisons are inevitable. Both are 38, and both have ankle issues. The Yankees shortstop had planned to be recovered from the broken ankle he suffered in the 2012 ALCS by the start of this season. Yet here it is the end of July, and Jeter is still struggling to get back on the field.
The comparisons would be invalid, said Dr. Joe Chandler, the Braves' former orthopedic surgeon who still consults with the team. Not only are Hudson and Jeter different players -- one an everyday position guy, the other a pitcher -- but the extents of their fractures may be different. The Yankees have released few specifics on Jeter's surgery.
"It's unfair to compare," Chandler said. "With what people call an ankle fracture, there actually can be a huge spectrum of injuries involved."
The Braves announced that Dr. Marvin Royster repaired Hudson's fractured fibula and damaged deltoid ligament Friday. Such injuries are serious, but should not necessarily be career-threatening, Chandler said.
Each case is unique. Pittsburgh's Jason Kendall -- at 25 -- suffered a compound fracture of his ankle in 1995, and played for 11 more seasons. San Francisco's Buster Posey broke his leg and severely strained ligaments in his ankle in 2011 and was a MVP the next year. The Braves' Greg Olson fractured his leg and dislocated an ankle in a collision at the plate with Ken Caminiti in 1992, and played only one more year. The variables are many.
Lastly, Hudson is not ready for a retirement ceremony just yet.
Medlen said Hudson has told him he wants to play two or three more years, to "do it as long as he can."
There are no guarantees he will come back as a Brave, but as Gonzalez said, "There is no doubt in my mind with the way he goes about his business and his competitive fire, he'll make it back."
Chandler, in fact, ranks this one no better than third on the list of career-threatening surgeries Hudson as faced after the age of 33, behind spinal fusion in 2011 and Tommy John surgery in 2008. "I don't want to underestimate this injury, but we've seen Tim Hudson go through a lot. He has overcome far more serious things than this. This is just a blip on the radar," Chandler said.
More difficult rehab is on the docket for Hudson. The home team certainly seems braced for the challenge.
"Tim is definitely not done playing, that's for sure," his wife said.
"We'll enjoy a little unexpected down time at home for a bit, but as soon as they tell him it's OK, he'll be back with the team, supporting his teammates. Expect to see him in a baseball uniform next spring."