Closing The Gap

Nationals pitcher Daniel Hudson missed a playoff game for the birth of his daughter—and is getting praise for it

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.
Scott Kane/Getty Images

On Oct. 11, the Washington Nationals announced that pitcher Daniel Hudson would be placed on postseason paternity leave, which allowed him to be away from the team for one to three days to support his wife as she gave birth to their third child.

For Hudson, being present for the birth of his daughter, Millie Lou, was an obvious choice, but taking one day off meant missing Game One of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals — and facing a few critics.

For instance, in response to the news, David Samson, former president of the Marlins, tweeted, "Unreal that Daniel Hudson is on paternity list and missing game 1 of #NLCS. 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?"

It didn't matter. The Nationals ended up winning the game, and fans, franchise leaders and teammates came to Hudson's defense.

"Boss moves by Daniel Hudson missing Game 1 of the #NLCS for #paternityleave to be there for the birth of his daughter," wrote Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on Instagram. "I'm buying his jersey right now."

"It's all about family, man," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told USA Today after the Nationals' win. "We said, 'You have to take care of your family,' that's a No. 1 priority and you do what you have to do. No second thoughts about that, by any means."

"If your reaction to someone having a baby is anything other than, 'Congratulations, I hope everybody's healthy,' you're an a------," Sean Doolittle, a fellow Nationals pitcher, told reporters. "As important as our careers are to us as players, nothing is more important to us than our families. Our careers will end someday, but family is forever."

He continued, "We sacrifice so much and we miss so much during our careers. We miss graduations and weddings. Lots of players might miss their kids' first steps or first words. They're gone six to eight months out of the year and can't take their kids to school or help their wives with taking care of the kids. So when he said, 'Hey, I need a day to be with my family because my wife is about to give birth,' it was a no-brainer for me, and we focused all our energy on picking him up."

Hudson said he is grateful for the support he and his family have received. "We were made aware of a lot of negative comments, but everybody's got their opinions and everybody's got their own priorities," he told NBC Sports. "And this organization was 100% on board with what my priorities are, and I'm really appreciative of that."

Daniel Hudson #44 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with teammates after a 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game 2 of the NLDS between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The player made a strong return during Game Two of the series, as he pitched the last two outs to finalize the Nationals' 3-1 win.

"My family is top priority for me. I heard somebody say one time, 'Baseball's what I do, it's not who I am.' And kind of once you have kids, or once I had kids, it really resonated with me," Hudson told ESPN.

Still, Hudson's case highlights the state of parental leave in the United States, which often doesn't allow parents to spend time with their infants.

According to a report from the Department of Labor, nine out of 10 fathers in the U.S. take some time off from work for the birth or adoption of a child — but not much. Approximately 70% of fathers take just 10 days or fewer of leave.

And paid time off for parental leave is incredibly uncommon. According to a national survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, only 16% of workers in the U.S. have access to some paid family leave through a private-sector employer.

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