Article featuring current Minnesota Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson originally posted on MLB.com September 5, 2007.
09/05/07 10:00 AM ET
Clemente Award nominee visits kids, raises money for cure
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX — Orlando Hudson saw firsthand the challenges that autistic children face through his cousin Rashaad Goodson, who was born with the lifelong development disorder, and he’s determined to do all that he can to make a difference.
“I want to make life great for them, too,” said Hudson, who is the D-backs’ nominee for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award. “They’re going through some struggles and some battles.”
The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
“Orlando Hudson deserves this recognition and is a terrific representative of the organization,” said D-backs team president Derrick Hall. “He understands his role and responsibility within the community, and he remains focused on positively impacting the lives of children throughout our state. He is a true role model who sets the table and the example for a group of players who are part of an organization that is extremely community-minded.”
Hudson began working with autistic children long before he set foot on a professional baseball field. While in junior high and high school, he would visit kids with autism in classrooms, and the experience made him yearn to do more.
“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve wanted to work with kids,” Hudson said. “Those kids sometimes get looked over and looked past. They go to school and a lot of times the schools don’t spend enough time with them, and their parents have to teach them what they’re not learning at school. So I just try to give them another life, get them out to baseball games, spend some time with them and raise as much money as I can so that one day we can find a cure.”
Hudson has teamed with the Phoenix-based Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) since his arrival in the Valley prior to the 2006 season. SARRC is dedicated to research, education and providing resources for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their familes.
Hudson hosts families at the ballpark and visits SARRC’s campus for Exceptional Children, while also helping to raise funds for research and programs at SARRC.
“It makes my day to see that they’re happy,” Hudson said of meeting with the children and their families. “I’ve heard that it makes their day, but really it makes my day when they’re happy. It’s definitely a blessing for me to be able to do that.”
Hudson arranges for families to attend monthly “game nights,” where he provides them with a private luxury suite and hosts a meet-and-greet session with the children before each game. It’s often the first time these kids have gotten to attend a game because of the difficulty parents have managing their children’s special needs in a loud stadium setting. By providing them with a luxury suite, the kids are able to enjoy the game without being subject to the sensory overload of noise and crowds.
Last November, Hudson served as honorary chairman of the inaugural Walk Now Arizona fundraiser benefiting SARRC and Cure Autism Now. In part because of his efforts to rally support for the event, it was the most successful inaugural Walk Now in the United States, with fundraising totals climbing to more than $370,000.
During the offseason, Hudson spends much of his free time visiting kids with autism in his native Darlington, S.C. In 2006, Hudson spoke to government officials in South Carolina about the segregation of children affected by autism from their peers in public schools, and he is currently forming his own foundation to help raise money to build a community school in his hometown that is modeled after SARRC.
“I’ve truly been blessed,” Hudson said, “and I want to do all I can to help others.”
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Welcome to my Autism Sports Blog. I started this site to promote the inspirational sports-related stories about autistic people.
I have an autistic son (age 12) who loves sports but is limited in his access to sports due to his Asperger’s Syndrome autism. He participates in a bowling league but longs to play football and baseball like the other kids.
I chose to join my passion for sports with a desire to promote autistic-friendly sports, share inspirational sports stories about autistic people, and possibly inspire people to get involved with sports by sharing heartwarming stories.
If you have an inspirational sports story of someone with autism, please submit to me here at: firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Pictures and videos are welcome. Even if you just have a tip about unique/inspirational story, I will be more than happy to write the story myself.
~ B. Swenson
Alex Hermann, an autistic teenager from the Chicago area, performed a feat unimaginable to most; he predicted all 48 games of the first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA Men’s basketball tournament correctly. Though his streak ended when Butler defeated Purdue, he still managed to accurately predict 51 of the first 52 games. Unfortunately his bracket featured Purdue winning the championship. To his credit, Purdue lost its star player right before the tournament began, which could have distorted his calculations a bit.
Jason McElwain, from the Rochester, N.Y., area inspired a nation back in 2006 with a night to remember when he made an appearance for his high school, Greece Athena High School, basketball team.
This one night brought tremendous awareness to the lives and abilities of highly functional autistic children. It is people like Jason McElwain who inspired this blog.
Great sports feats inspire people, and this also added a heavy dose of education and awareness on top of that inspiration.
If you have an inspirational sports-related story about a person with autism, please submit it to me at email@example.com.