In the Absence of Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson Has Become the Face of the Atlanta Braves

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COMMENTARY | For nearly 20 years, the face of the Atlanta Braves was unquestionably Chipper Jones. But as the retirement ceremonies end and Jones awaits his induction at Cooperstown, the Braves are moving forward.

Many questioned who would fill the vacuum as team leader -- the veteran not afraid to take his team to task when necessary, willing to guide younger players when necessary, and willing to talk to the TV networks during those inane in-game interviews. While players like Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman have all increased their roles in the clubhouse, Tim Hudson has become the face of the Atlanta franchise.

Hudson came to Atlanta from the Oakland A's prior to the 2005 season in exchange for Charles Thomas, Dan Meyer and Juan Cruz, a massive coup for the Braves. Since then, he has won more games than any other pitcher in the National League. Of the 18 major league starters that have pitched more than 1,500 innings over that time frame, Hudson is seventh in ERA at 3.56 and second in BABIP at .278. In each of his 13 non-injury shortened seasons, Tim Hudson has finished with double-digit wins.

While his statistics are impressive, Tim Hudson's true value with Atlanta lies off the field. He is a leader in the clubhouse, often seen talking with younger pitchers and giving advice. He is a popular interview subject due to his candor and good humor. Hudson is a known practical joker, coming up with sometimes elaborate ruses to surprise his teammates, including now-bullpen coach Eddie Perez .

What really makes Tim Hudson the face of the Atlanta Braves is his involvement in the community. The Hudson Family Foundation works to improve the lives of children in Georgia and Alabama, and Tim and his wife Kim work tirelessly to that end. Whether they are helping kids learn to read, paying medical bills for families in need, or providing college scholarships for promising young students, they make their presence felt in the offseason and are strong members of the community known as "Braves Country".

Unfortunately, as with many things this season, the future is uncertain for the face of the franchise. The Braves exercised a $9 million option to keep Hudson in Atlanta for this season, but he will be a free agent going into 2014. With a plethora of young arms waiting in the wings, it may be difficult to find a way to keep the aging starter, no matter how willing both sides are. It is entirely possible that this time next year we will once again be asking who is the face of the Atlanta Braves, but for now, we are lucky to have a player like Tim Hudson to serve in that role, a player as accomplished off the field as he is on.

Joe Thomas was raised and lives within shouting distance of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. He is the sports editor for The Sting, the student newspaper of Southern Polytechnic State University.

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