JACKSON, Tenn. – Often seen as a guise for right-wing, political machinations, the term “family values” is easier to trumpet than it is to live. Society is well served when men live their family values in practical ways rather than merely advocating for family values in theoretical ways. The old adage is true: What you are doing speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.
Family values are often tested when the rubber meets the road. Daniel Hudson of the Washington Nationals recently decided not to step on the rubber of the pitching mound so he could be present for his daughter’s birth. For him, Family values had names – Sara, his wife; Briley (5) and Parker (3), his two daughters, and Millie, his soon-to-be born daughter.
For Hudson, the Nationals’ postseason bullpen anchor, being there and celebrating his third daughter’s birth with his wife and other daughters was a no-brainer. However, taking the day off (taking advantage of Major League Baseball’s paternity leave policy) meant missing Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He missed the game, but Sean Doolittle served as the closer, and the Nationals won 2-0. In an ironic twist, the Nationals ended up taking care of the whole series. Hudson came back, the Nationals won the pennant, and they gained their first World Series berth in franchise history.
Whether it would have ended like it did or not, Hudson did the right thing. His decision to miss Game 1 and be with his family sparked the debate again around parenthood and sports. Where should athletes draw the line? Where should loyalties lie? Does family come first or does the team come first?
Having removed himself from social media a couple years ago (something that would benefit us all), Hudson was mostly able to tune out the toxic chatter that ensued. However, it seems that he couldn’t care less about the criticism he received from prioritizing family over baseball. He told ESPN, “My family is top priority for me. I heard someone say one time, ‘Baseball’s what I do, it’s not who I am.’ And kind of once you have kids, or once I had kids, it really resonated with me.”
There is nothing new about sports commentators shaming athletes for their behavior as fathers. Former Miami Marlins president and current CBS Sports HQ commentator David P. Samson tweeted, “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. If all is well, he needs to get to St. Louis. Inexcusable. Will it matter? #waittosee.”
While a pitcher can be replaced, a dad cannot. As Marc Edelman argued, “Indeed, if the Los Angeles Dodgers were able to survive as an organization during Game 1 of the 1965 World Series while Hall of Fame starting pitcher Sandy Koufax observed Yom Kippur, the Washington Nationals could certainly survive one game of the NLCS without Hudson.”
When asked about Hudson’s decision, Nationals coach Davey Martinez said the answer was simple. Of course he should put his family first. He told reporters, “So we get him back when we get him back.” Fellow pitcher Sean Doolittle said it well: “As important as our careers are to us as players, nothing is more important to us than our families. Our careers will end someday, but family is forever.”
Little Millie will not remember her dad being there for her birth, but her mom and sisters will, and she will one day read about it in the history books. Millie will not have to wonder if she and her family are more important than baseball to her dad. She’ll know.
More kids like Millie need dads like Daniel.
Written by Todd E. Brady, vice president for university ministries at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Published by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.