Orlando Hudson turns 46 today.
Orlando was drafted in the 33rd round by the Blue Jays’ in the 1996 draft. We redrafted him in the 43rd round of the 1997 draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College, and this time he signed.
Orlando had a relatively slow but steady climb through the Jays minor league system. Players picked late in the draft must prove themselves at each level before moving to the next. In late July of 2002, Orlando was called up to the majors. Homer Bush started the season at second but didn’t hit much and was released on May 10. After that, Dave Berg played the position, but he was more of a utility player. Playing second every day was a bit of a stretch of his abilities. Hudson was hitting .305 at Triple-A Syracuse, so he was the logical choice to get a shot at the job. Hudson was pretty good, hitting .276/.319/.443 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI in 54 games.
Hudson started the 2003 season as our second baseman. He didn’t have a great year, hitting .268/.328/.395 with 9 home runs and 57 RBI. Orlando mostly hit at the back of the order. His defense was a work in progress; he wasn’t great with the glove immediately, but he would learn. Fangraphs credited him with a 0.7 UZR/150.
In 2004, Orlando started putting everything together, hitting .270/.341/.438 with 12 home runs, 58 RBI, and 73 runs in 135 games. His defense improved, too; Fangraphs had him at a 16.5 UZR/105. It was his best year with the Jays. Baseball Reference had him at a 5.2 WAR. He missed 20 games with a hamstring injury.
He had another nice season in 2005, hitting .271/.315/.412 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI. He got his first Gold Glove that year.
Unfortunately, he played with the Jays during a rather forgettable era. They did win 86 games in 2003, but that still left them 15 games behind the Yankees. In 2004, they lost 94 games. Beyond Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay (who had his second-worst season as a Blue Jays, going 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA, where he missed a good chunk of the season with a tired arm. The teardown period of JP Ricciardi’s reign wasn’t the best time to be a Jays fan. He had a way of putting together a team of average players.
After the 2005 season, Hudson was traded along with Miguel Batista to the Diamondbacks for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santo. Getting Glaus got us Scott Rolen, who, in turn, got us Edwin Encarnacion, so I’m calling that trade a win. Part of the reason for the trade was to make room for Aaron Hill at second base, with Russ Adams pencilled in for short.
Orlando played in Arizona for three seasons, then signed with the Dodgers as a free agent before the 2009 season. The Dodgers made the playoffs but put Ronnie Belliard at second for the playoffs. They lost in the NLCS to the Phillies. In the off-season, he signed, as a free agent, with the Twins, so Orlando got to the playoffs again, playing second, but they lost out to the Yankees in the ALDS. After the Twins, he went to the Padres and then the White Sox, where he finished his career in 2012.
After leaving the Blue Jays, he played on 2 All-Star teams and won 3 more Gold Gloves. He was always an okay hitter, but most of his value comes from his defence. Brian Butterfield gets and deserves a lot of credit for his defensive ability. He spent a lot of time working with Orlando. Orlando had great range and made highlight-reel plays almost daily. He’s as good a defensive player as we have ever had at second.
In four seasons with the Blue Jays, he hit .270/.328/.418 with 35 home runs. Career, in 11 seasons with six teams, he hit .273/.341/.412 with 93 home runs.
Orlando is married and has a son and two daughters. He started a CATCH charity that raises money which “enables children with autism to enjoy a normal active life through the funding of outlets for proper therapy, education, and extracurricular activities.”
Hudson was a fun player to watch; he seemed to have a good time playing ball and was a fun interview. He became a fan favourite during his time with the Jays.
Happy Birthday, Orlando. I hope it is a good one.