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Nationals pitcher criticized for missing playoff game for daughter's birth

Daniel Hudson said his family is his "top priority" after receiving criticism for missing a playoff game for the birth of his daughter.
League Championship Series - Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 12: Daniel Hudson #44 of the Washington Nationals delivers in the ninth inning of game two of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on October 12, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)Scott Kane / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

In the mind of Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, there was only one choice to be made when it came between playing in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series or being with his wife for the birth of their daughter.

He also couldn't care less about criticism he received on social media for choosing his family over a playoff game.

"I knew I was going to go no matter what," Hudson, 32, told reporters after returning to the team on Saturday. "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. But I didn't really give much thought about not going. My family is top priority for me."

Hudson's decision to be with his family reignited a debate centered around parenthood in sports, where athletes draw criticism from some fans and commentators who believe loyalty to the team should always come first.

"Unreal that Daniel Hudson is on paternity list and missing game 1 of #NLCS," former Miami Marlins president David Samson tweeted. "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?"

Hudson's wife, Sara, 32, gave birth on Friday to their daughter Millie at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meanwhile, the Nationals did just fine without him, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in Game 1 of the NLCS that night with teammate Sean Doolittle closing out the win in relief.

Doolittle defended his teammate after the game.

"If your reaction to someone having a baby is anything other than, ‘Congratulations, I hope everybody’s healthy,’ you’re an a--hole," Doolittle told reporters afterward.

Many others applauded Hudson's decision.

Nationals manager, Dave Martinez, who was supportive of Hudson's decision, joked in the postgame press conference that he should name his daughter Anibala Sean, after Doolittle and Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez, who helped clinch the shutout in Hudson's absence.

"As important as our careers are to us as players, nothing is more important to us than our families," Doolittle told ESPN. "Our careers will end someday, but family is forever. We sacrifice so much and we miss so much during our careers."

Major League Baseball instituted a three-day paternity leave policy in 2011 that has since been defended against detractors in multiple instances.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was playing for the New York Mets in 2014, became one of the early faces of the policy when he faced criticism for missing the first two games of the season for the birth of his son.

"That never crossed, I don’t think, my mind or her mind,” Murphy said on TODAY about the possibility of playing in the games.

Hudson's daughter Millie joins the couple's two older daughters, Baylor, 5, and Parker, 2, to make them a family of five. Sara had been scheduled for an induction on Oct. 10 but was induced later than expected, according to ESPN.

It's also not as if Hudson could have planned that far ahead to schedule Millie's birth around a playoff game.

He was released by the Los Angeles Angels to start the season, then pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, who were far out of the playoff race, before being traded to Washington in July. He soon emerged as a vital part of the Nationals' bullpen after taking over the closer role.

“I went from not having a job on March 21st to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs,” Hudson said with a smile. “Life comes at you fast. Man, I don’t know how that happened and how I became the face for whatever conversation was going on.”

Millie might also be a good-luck charm. Hudson returned to close out a Nationals victory in Game 2 on Saturday, and then Washington beat the Cardinals again on Monday to put them one win away from their first World Series appearance in team history.