The Rotary Smith Award Winner as the nation's best collegiate baseball player following the 1997 season, Hudson had the single-best year for any player in Auburn history as he led the Tigers to the College World Series. On the mound Hudson was 15-2 with a 2.97 ERA. At the plate he hit .396 with 17 home runs and 95 RBI.
Coming back and joining a select group honored in front of over 3,000 fans on Saturday at Plainsman Park, Hudson said he's thrilled to be included in the group and looking forward to spending more time in Auburn as his job with the Atlanta Braves allows.
"It's a tremendous honor to be able to come back and be included in a group with Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas and Gregg Olson," Hudson said. "I'm thrilled to death that Auburn thought enough of me and my career to include me in such a group. It's always great to come back to Auburn. I just feel welcome. It's a big family and it's great to be back.
"I'm from only about a half-hour from here," he added. "My mom and dad live here in Auburn now and I'm building a house here in Auburn. We're actually going to be living here full-time starting this coming off-season. It's a place that we're happy. We love it here. The people here are awesome. They've always made me and my family feel welcome here. It's a place where we're going to put down our roots."
Drafted in the sixth-round by Oakland, Hudson is a two-time All-Star and is currently with the Atlanta Braves in his 12th major league season. With a career record of 148-78, Hudson has established himself as one of the game's elite starting pitchers. He said playing in the Southeastern Conference is something that prepared him to play at an elite level.
"It was vital," Hudson said. "Playing at Auburn and this caliber of conference in the SEC does nothing but get you better for the next level. In fact after I got drafted I think A Ball was a little bit of a step down from this caliber. It wasn't quite as good as AA, but it got you ready for what to expect at the next level. I'm just thrilled that I had the opportunity to play here under coach (Hal) Baird. He was obviously vital not only in my career, but a lot of pitchers that came through here."
Hudson now returns to spring training with Atlanta preparing for the 2010 season after coming back late last year to start seven games after recovering from arm surgery. Finishing 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA, Hudson showed the Braves enough to get a new contract and Hudson said he's ready to have a big season on the mound.
"I feel tremendous physically," Hudson said. "There are no limitations physically. I came back and pitched last year at the end of the year. I felt pretty good, but didn't feel like it was quite 100 percent. I was good enough to go out there and pitch. Luckily the Braves thought I came back strong enough to extend me out a few years. Right now I feel the best I've felt in a number of years. It's great to be able to go out there and pitch and feel strong and not feel like you're limited in any way physically. I feel like I did when I was 25."