On the flight from Georgia to Seattle to pick up the 46th annual Hutch Award, Tim Hudson scanned the list of previous 45 winners.
Its fair to say his jaw dropped.
The award, part of a benefit for Seattles Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has honored some of the biggest names in baseball in the last half century Willie McCovey and Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Al Kaline, Pete Rose and Lou Brock, Johnny Bench and Curt Schilling, David Cone and Trevor Hoffman.
“Why my name is up there with Mantle and Koufax and those guys, I dont know, Hudson said Wednesday in picking up the award that goes annually to the big leaguer who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of former pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson, a Seattle native who died of cancer at 45 in 1964. “But Ill take it.
Hudson said the list of previous winners is more than a little humbling. And he said the players he knows who have won the award in recent years have some things in common.
“Its pretty exciting, he said. “Even my buddy Jason Giambi (they were teammates with the Oakland As) is on that list in 2000. I think one thing that list has in common all the guys on there, the ones that I know, are really great guys, and have great hearts.
“Not only that, they have a passion for the game, and for helping others. As professional athletes, major-league players, we’ve been blessed with an opportunity to do good with the pedestal we’ve been blessed with baseball. If youre not trying to do good with what youre blessed with, it’s a detriment to the game.
Hudson and his wife, Kim, spent Tuesday touring the Hutchinson facilities, meeting doctors, researchers and patients to get an overview of what the facility does. Wednesday morning, the Hudsons met some of the children who go to school at the Hutch so that families dont have to be split up as mom or dad or a brother or a sister undergoes cancer treatment. In some cases, the students themselves are the cancer fighters.
“It reminds you about whats really important, Hudson said. “And whats important is not winning 20 games or winning the World Series or anything like that. Whats important is to make a difference. And from what Ive seen here, thats what they do.
“Kim and I have been involved with working with people who help children since 2000 when I was introduced to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To see how these people stay positive in the wake of getting the most devastating kinds of news you can get, its special.
Hudson spoke at the annual Hutch lunch Wednesday at Safeco Field, one of the Hutch Centers major fund raisers. He said it was the first time hes been in Safeco Field since 2004, his last year with Oakland, when “I was trying to figure out how Ichiro hit my slider in the dirt so hard.
“We (the Braves) are going to be back this year, Hudson said, talking of an interleague series with Seattle hosting Atlanta June 27-29. “Ill pull out old films and try to figure Ichiro out all over again.
Kim Hudson said she and her husband “would like to come back to visit here when there are no cameras or anything.
“We love what theyre doing here, she said. “Its an amazing place. It sets your mind spinning seeing all the advances they are making here. Tim doesnt play to win awards; he plays because he loves the game. But we love to help where we can.
Tim Hudson said “Im already looking forward to coming back and visit the Hutch.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)