Verlander, Hudson give ODU a World Series Presence
By ODU Athletics
Written by David Driver
WASHINGTON – Major League pitchers Justin Verlander and Daniel Hudson are former ODU standouts who have excelled in the October spotlight, and they guarantee the Monarchs will have a representative on the World Series champion for the second time in three years.
Verlander, a starter for the Houston Astros, was drafted out of ODU in the first round in 2004 by the Detroit Tigers while Hudson was taken in the fifth round by the Chicago White Sox four years later. Verlander helped the Astros to the 2017 World Series title while Hudson, a key reliever for the Washington Nationals, is in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Yeah, pretty cool,” Verlander said before Game 5 on Sunday at Nationals Park. “I actually haven’t had time to speak to (Hudson). Go figure, World Series, we’re pretty busy doing other stuff.”
Verlander, 36, also has history with Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who played at Kellam High in Virginia Beach and was drafted by Washington out of the University of Virginia in 2005.
“It’s pretty cool how well represented Virginia is as a whole,” said Verlander, who played at Goochland High before becoming an all-conference pitcher at ODU.
Verlander, who threw his third no-hitter in September, shared a light moment with Zimmerman during Game 2 of the World Series in Houston. The right-hander tried to field a dribbler off the bat of Zimmermann but fell down while trying to make the play on the infield single.
“Growing up playing against Zimm, he gave me a sly little look the other day after I threw the ball off my shin when he was a at first base, which was pretty funny,” Verlander said. “I remember going all the way back to my ODU days, him and I played golf together. From then to now, a lot has happened in both of our lives, but pretty cool to have our lives interconnect like that and to end up on this stage.”
Hudson, 32, was born in Lynchburg and moved to the Tidewater region with his family at a young age. He played at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach before heading to ODU. He and his wife, Sara, met as freshmen in college and were married in 2011.
While Verlander broke spring training with Houston, Hudson was looking for a job when he was released on March 22 by the Los Angeles Angels. Three days later he was signed as a free agent by the Toronto Blue Jays, and he was 6-3 with an ERA of 3.00 in 45 games with the team before he was traded to the Nationals in late July.
The first game Hudson suited up in Washington with the Nationals just happened to be ODU Night at Nationals Park.
“It is a big coincidence,” Hudson told this reporter that night. “I had a couple of people text me this morning and tell me they were going to be here. I didn’t even know it was ODU Night. It is pretty cool.”
Hudson joined a Nationals’ team in which Sean Doolittle, a former two-way player at Virginia, was the closer. But the lefty was on the injured list for 12 days in August with right knee tendonitis.
With Doolittle struggling, Hudson became the most effective reliever for the Nationals.
The hard-throwing right-hander ended regular-season play with a 3-0 record and ERA of 1.44 with six saves in 14 outings for the Nationals.
He then stepped up his game in the playoffs, as Hudson got the save in the wild-card game win over the Milwaukee Brewers in a stirring comeback win at Nationals Park on October 1. In the loud and joyous clubhouse after the game Hudson filmed the celebration for his family, as his wife was back in Arizona waiting for the birth of their third child.
Hudson helped the Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the National League Division Series, then he missed Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals to be with his wife as she had their third daughter.
He returned to the club for Game 2 and then got another save at home on October 15 in Game 4 against the Cardinals as the Nationals swept the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park.
“So much energy in this place,” said Hudson, standing on the infield during the celebration and trophy presentation. “The fans had my back, the players had my back. No panic in these guys.”
The Nationals then won the first two games of the World Series but Astros swept all three games at Nationals Park to take a 3-2 series lead, winning 7-1 on Sunday night. Verlander didn’t pitch in Washington but had plenty to deal with.
“Yeah, made the ticket situation a little harder,” Verlander said of being close to his suburban Richmond roots. “But yeah, it’s been pretty cool to be here and have some friends that otherwise wouldn’t be able to see this game, this atmosphere in the World Series and be able to experience it.”
Verlander, with 225 wins in regular-season play, can nail down a second World Series crown in three years for Houston when he takes the mound Tuesday night in Texas.
“I mean, hard to put into words,” Verlander said of what that would mean to him. “I can’t even really – it’s one of those things that in the moment, right now while we’re grinding, trying to win it, you don’t really think about it. It probably wouldn’t even cross my mind or sink in until the offseason sometime.”
Editor’s note: David Driver is a Virginia native who has covered the Nationals for seven years for various publications, and has written about college baseball in the state for 25 years. He has contributed to Baseball America, The Washington Times, Nationals magazine, The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press and can be reached at @DaytonVaDriver and davidsdriver.com