ST. LOUIS — If I'm being honest, I know that I have a tendency to connect pretty much any conversation or topic back to my little girl, and I don't care that it's probably annoying.
She's approaching 14 months old, and I'd venture to say that at least 75 percent of the people I've spoken with in person since August 2018 have either heard a story or seen a picture of Maeve. I have so many pictures and videos of BabyGirl that my phone regularly deletes apps to create space for the new ones I add daily (yes, I’ll set up the cloud at some point, probably after the MLB postseason, when I finally find a few free moments).
I can't help it. Her birth had a deep and lasting impact on my worldview, and I cannot imagine any scenario that would have kept me from being there for that moment, to support my wife and to meet my daughter.
And so when I heard that Nationals pitcher Daniel Hudson was missing Game 1 of the NLCS to be with his wife for the birth of their third child, a big grin spread across my face. Such a great moment for that family. And, yeah, I opened my phone and looked at pictures from that day that changed my life.
When Hudson arrived at Busch Stadium the morning of Game 2 and met with reporters, I asked how many pictures he'd already taken, and how his other two daughters reacted to their new sibling.
"A lot, man, yeah. We had a photographer come in yesterday," Hudson said with the smile of a parent who has a new baby, equal parts excited and exhausted. "Obviously, I have two older girls as well, so this is my third girl. My oldest is 5, my middle one is 3. So, needless to say, my oldest was pretty excited to meet her new baby sister yesterday. To be able to have that experience with my family and be there for the whole thing was everything I could have imagined. ... And top three things in my life — 1A, 1B and 1C — are being there for the birth of all three of my daughters."
There's often a detachment between writers and the players we cover. I'll never know what it’s like to throw 100 mph or hit a 450-foot home run in a big league game, no matter how many people I interview who have done those things. But in that moment, the experience of watching your child arrive — that truth of life — was shared.
And even though it pains me, I can't help but talk about the reaction of some cretins who were criticizing Hudson on social media for choosing his new daughter over a baseball game. Right around the time of the first pitch of Game 1, I saw the tweet from David Samson, the former Marlins executive who dedicated his time with the team to fleecing the taxpayers and politicians out of millions of dollars while getting a new stadium built. It made my stomach crawl. What the hell is wrong with some people?
After a few failed attempts at remaining civil, I settled on this.
Birth of your child > any sporting event, ever https://t.co/0aTuOzUZDf— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 12, 2019
But Samson wasn't alone. A columnist from the Chattanooga paper tweeted something similar, as did more people than I'd like to think about. Word even got back to Hudson, who flipped on Game 1 midway through the contest after Millie — his newbie — was born and mother and daughter were given the all’s-good.
"We were made aware of a lot of stuff that was going on, obviously, watching the game it was hard to ignore," Hudson said. "... I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs, like, hey, life comes at you fast, man, like I don't know how that happened and how I became the face for whatever conversation was going on. Everybody's got their opinions, man, and I really value my family and my family time. And like I said, the support I got from this organization, and most people, obviously — we were made aware of a lot of negative comments — but everybody's got their opinions and everybody's got their own priorities. And this organization was a hundred percent on board with what my priorities are and I'm really appreciative of that."
That’s what really matters, of course. Surround yourself with people who will support you in things that really matter, the things that are actually important.
Hudson wanted to be there for Game 1. The due date for their child was Oct. 14, and crunching a few numbers, it was clear that the best plan of action — to avoid missing potential clinch/elimination games late in the series — was to schedule the induction for Oct. 10, the day after Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.
"We were trying to see if we could get in early for the induction, and the way it works, people that are doing natural birth come first, so we couldn't get a bed until yesterday afternoon, yesterday evening," Hudson said. "So that's kind of the timeline and that's how it went. ... You try to plan something and everything goes crazy."
That’s another moment with which I could empathize. Maeve was due Aug. 11, but she was happy and healthy where she was, so we didn’t go to the hospital to begin the induction process until Aug. 21, pushed back a day because of a shortage of beds. And the labor process for Tate, my rock-star wife, lasted more than 40 hours.
It didn’t go as planned, but it worked out perfectly. Same thing for Hudson.
He was where he needed to be, being a supportive teammate for his wife and two kids. And his Nationals teammates took care of business, with Anibal Sanchez and Sean Doolittle combining for the shutout victory.
"I texted him last night," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said with a laugh, "and I said, 'Hey, I got a name for your little girl, and it's Anibala Sean Hudson.'"
Hudson laughed, remembering that moment.
"We were actually undecided on a name at that point," Hudson said. "We didn't actually figure out a name until we went to bed last night. We kind of finally decided on Millie and, yeah, my wife got a good kick out of that. That was pretty funny."