Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson returned to the place where his career took off, and what he brought with him, Hudson hopes, will allow many more baseball players to flourish.
Along with his wife, Kim, Hudson donated $200,000 on Monday to the Chattahoochee Valley Community College baseball program — the single largest donation in the junior college’s history. According to Alabama Community College Conference commissioner Al Cox, it is the largest baseball donation ever for the 22-team conference.
In a ceremony at Howard Lake Field on the school’s campus, CVCC coach Adam Thomas accepted the large cardboard check and called the event a face-changing moment for the program.
“This means the entire world to us,” Thomas said. “In one single moment, he’s changed this program. It’s an unbelievable gesture.”
Approximately 50 people attended, including the Pirates baseball team, which played a role in the ceremony. After Hudson spoke, Thomas and his nationally ranked Pirates unveiled a few gifts of their own. CVCC officially retired Hudson’s jersey number, giving him a framed No. 18 jersey. But they weren’t done. With blue letters and gold trim, the No. 18 was permanently placed on the left-center field wall with “Tim Hudson” written across the numerals.
“This place was very instrumental in my career,” Hudson said. “I’m proud to come back here and be a Pirate. I have a lot of great memories here.
“Hopefully this will be the first of many (numbers retired). This can help upgrade the facility and get this program more on the national scale and recruit kids from all over to come here.”
While no immediate plans are in the works for the $200,000, Thomas’ wish list includes a new scoreboard, dugouts and field house. Thomas and CVCC president Laurel Blackwell will meet soon to discuss the plans, and Blackwell said the construction hopefully will begin this summer.
Howard Lake Field was built in 1980, and very few changes have been made since. The infield was redone in 2006, and the Pirates’ new black wall, which was privately donated, was put up last summer.
For Thomas, who grew up playing football and baseball with Hudson in Phenix City, the donation was also personal.
“I can’t say enough about Timmy the man,” Thomas said. “We all know what he does on the field, but it takes on an entirely different meaning for me. We’ve basically known each other for 30 years. Timmy and Kim’s kindness is just unbelievable.”
Thomas and Hudson played together at CVCC, where Thomas was Hudson’s catcher.
Hudson grew up in Phenix City and graduated from Glenwood in 1993. He was not recruited in high school, but B.R. Johnson, CVCC’s coach at the time, signed the outfielder/pitcher to a scholarship. As a freshman, Hudson earned first-team All-American honors, leading the team in batting average (.385), home runs (9), RBIs (42), wins (10) and strikeouts (76).
Hudson set a school record his sophomore year with 117 strikeouts before moving on to Auburn University, where his senior year he was awarded the Rotary Smith Award, which recognizes the best college baseball player in the country. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 1997 and made his major league debut in 1999. He joined the Braves pitching staff in 2005 and holds a lifetime record of 149-78 with a 3.48 ERA in 313 games.
Throughout his professional career, Hudson has received the Roberto Clemente Award (given to a major league baseball player for his philanthropic work) eight times. Tim and Kim founded the Hudson Family Foundation last year.
After the ceremony, it was back to work for the No. 6 Pirates, who are currently on a 19-game win streak. CVCC (35-4) hosts Andrew College today at 4 p.m. For Hudson and the Braves, after having Monday off, they’ll host the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field tonight at 7:10. The 34-year-old right-hander is scheduled to pitch Wednesday.