ON BEING TRADED TO ATLANTA AFTER SIX YEARS WITH THE A'S My wife, Kim, and I loved Oakland so much: the relationships we built with teammates, with fans. I had a pretty hard time with the trade the first few days. Kim had a really hard time. All the wives were calling her and crying, she was crying. But Atlanta was the one place that, if I was going to get traded, I would be happiest. It makes the transition a little easier. [Hudson grew up in Alabama, near the Georgia border, and was a Braves fan.]
ON WHAT HE'LL MISS MOST The camaraderie, the joking around. The players were like little kids, always into toys. One year we had remote-control cars, and everybody got to the park early to drive them around the field. Guys played [the combat video game] Halo, guys played guitars. Last year we'd get to the clubhouse and have a big Texas hold 'em tournament.
ON OAKLAND G.M. BILLY BEANE'S OFF-SEASON TRADES OF HIM AND LEFTHANDER MARK MULDER He's taken a lot of heat, but he's made the right decisions for the future of the organization. He's brought in good, young talent, and in the long term [the A's] will probably be better off, if you look at their finances. The guys in those trades could be studs, and who knows, me and Mulder could be washed up. I always wondered if Billy knew something I didn't.
ON BEING JOHN SMOLTZ'S TEAMMATE I grew up a huge fan of his, so it's weird. I'd never met him. I don't know what to call him. Sir? Mr. Smoltz?
ON HIS HOMETOWN, SALEM, ALA. There's one four-way stop sign in the middle of town. I grew up in the country on five acres of land. [Hudson's father, Ronnie, was a supervisor at a factory that made cereal boxes.] Me and kids from the neighborhood, we were always out in the woods or riding bicycles or playing baseball. Not a lot of trouble to get into. We played baseball in a cow pasture.
ON HIS WIFE, KIM, WHOM HE MET AT AUBURN, WHERE HE WAS AN ALL-SEC OUTFIELDER AND PITCHER We sat beside each other in a class, World History 101. She's really smart, made straight A's. She was the notetaker while I was busy goofing off.
ON KIM'S LAW CAREER (SHE PASSED THE BAR IN ALABAMA) She's my subagent. I have my agent, and she checks my agent out, makes sure he's on top of things. She's sharp. I hope our kids get her brains and my athletic ability.
ON HIS DECLINING STRIKEOUT RATE When I first came up, like any young pitcher, I loved strikeouts. It shows dominance. Everybody wants to be Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson. I've learned that I've got a great sinker, I get a lot of ground balls, and it's easy to get a ground ball double play. I've matured as a pitcher. I understand what my strengths are.
ON FORMER A'S TEAMMATE JASON GIAMBI He's one of the best guys, one of the best teammates I've ever been around. I feel sorry for him as a person because I don't want him to get dragged through a lot of mud. He has to understand that he's a great player, with or without steroids.
ON BARRY BONDS Barry is probably the best hitter in the history of the game, and I don't think he needs steroids to put up those numbers.
ON MLB'S NEW STEROID TESTING POLICY I think everybody's going to be surprised at how well it works. A lot of people say, 'It's only a 10-game suspension,' but the simple fact that your name's going to be associated with steroids, you're not going to do it. I'm serious. There's a lot of pride in baseball, and I don't think players want to have that cloud over their heads--'Well, this guy's a steroid guy, no wonder he had that good year in '99.' Guys won't want to take that chance.
ON WHO'LL HAVE THE BETTER HITTING SEASON, HIM OR MULDER, WHO'S WITH THE CARDINALS We've got a bet for highest average, most home runs and whoever gets the most bunts down. I've told him, 'When I face you, whatever you give me, I'll give you. If you give me heaters away, nice and easy, don't try to make me look stupid, that's what I'll give you. As soon as you try to make me look like a jackass, I'm throwing you my best stuff.'
--As told to Daniel G. Habib
HUDSON, 29, WENT 92-39 WITH THE A'S. HE AND KIM, WHO IS PREGNANT, HAVE A THREE-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, KENNEDIE ROSE, AND AN INFANT, TESS
I HAD A HARD TIME WITH THE TRADE THE FIRST FEW DAYS ... BUT I'LL BE HAPPY IN ATLANTA
"I got the tattoo of her over my heart to let her know that she is always with me."
--Juan Dixon, Wizards Guard, page 35
Photograph by Michael Heape
PRESTON MACK (HUDSON THROWING)
ROB HOLT/ICON SMI (DIXON)