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Former ODU pitcher Daniel Hudson is in the World Series, and also in a national debate on family values

By Harry Minium

Yet another former Old Dominion University baseball player has pitched his way into the World Series and, in the process, inadvertently triggered a national debate on family values.

Daniel Hudson, who was drafted out of ODU in the 2008 Major League Baseball draft, helped lead the Washington Nationals to a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series and into the World Series.

The Nationals defeated the Cardinals, 7-4, Tuesday night in Washington, with Hudson, Washington's closer, among three relief pitchers who helped the Nats preserve their lead.

The Cardinals loaded the bases in the top of the eighth and Hudson came in and forced a ground out to end the inning. After throwing the game's last pitch -- a fly out to center field -- he threw his glove to the ground and joined his teammates for a celebration at the pitcher's mound.

Hudson and the Nationals could be facing another former Monarch ace.

Justin Verlander gave the Houston Astros a strong performance in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and the Astros now lead the Yankees, 2 games to 1. Verlander helped the Astros win the Series in 2017.

Hudson set off a national debate when he went home to Scottsdale, Ariz., last week and missed the first game of the playoff series. The reason: He wanted to be with his wife, Sara Hudson, as she gave birth to their third child.

Daniel, a graduate of Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, and Sara met when they were freshmen at ODU in 2005. They got married six years later.

As Hudson watched the Nationals defeat the Cardinals in Game One while holding his daughter, Millie, social media blew up. Hardline baseball purists blasted him, including David Sampson, the ex-president of the Miami Marlins.

"Unreal that Daniel Hudson is on paternity list and missing game 1 of #NLCS. Only excuse would be a problem with the birth or health of baby or mother," Sampson tweeted.

Thousands responded, many jumping to his defense.

"So, you're saying his wife should be able to handle childbirth, alone, without her husband there, but his team of 40 guys can't handle one playoff baseball game? In 2019, this is really what you're saying?" one woman tweeted.

Major League Baseball allows up to three days off for the birth of a child.

"I knew I was going to go no matter what," Hudson told ESPN. "I didn't know that this was a new thing, to have a playoff paternity leave list. I had no idea.

"I was like, 'I can't be the only person to have a baby in the middle of the postseason,' and for it to blow up like it did, man, it's kind of crazy," he added. "But I didn't really give much thought about not going. My family is top priority for me."

Hudson, now 32, was one of baseball's best young pitchers in 2011, when he was 23-13 and had an 3.01 ERA in a season and a half with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But he tore a ligament in his right elbow and had "Tommy John" surgery. The ligament tore again, and usually, that's where a player's career ends.

He battled back into the Diamondbacks' rotation, but last year began to wonder if his baseball career was over. He was released by Tampa Bay in 2018. He was then released by the Los Angeles Angels in February and signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who released him on March 21.

He was picked up by Toronto before being traded to the Nationals on July 31.

"I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs," Hudson told Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga. "I don't know what happened and how I became the face for whatever conversation was going on."

This has been a storybook season not only for Hudson, but also for the Nats. Washington lost its best player, Bryce Harper, in the offseason to the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Nationals began the season by losing 31 of their first 50 games.

Now they have given the nation's capital its first chance to host a World Series since 1933, when the old Washington Senators faced the New York Giants.

The Nationals stood firmly behind Hudson before and after the national debate ensued.

Mike Rizzo, the Nats' general manager and president of baseball operations, said the decision to support Hudson "was easy."

"A happy player is a performing player," he said. "We've got to take care of our people. You have to treat this like a family.

"And the important thing is that we've got a new little member of the Nationals family."

Sara Hudson told her husband just before the first playoff game, "If you feel like you need to go, you can go."

He replied: "God forbid. What if something were to happen and I wasn't there?"

She smiled and said, "Good point."

For more on Hudson's baseball career and the birth of Millie, click here.

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