Nov. 30, 2013
Oakland Athletics third baseman and former Auburn star Josh Donaldson cuts loose during Celebrity Home Run Derby (Anthony Hall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Tim Hudson looked around at the crowd filling most of the seats at Plainsman Park, and he was proud. A glittering field, including former Auburn stars and current and former major leaguers, performed in the annual Celebrity Home Run Derby the night before the Iron Bowl.
Hudson, a former All-America Auburn pitcher who became a major league star, said he was gratified. Proceeds from the event go to Hudson Family Foundation, founded by Hudson and his wife, Kim, to help children and their families in need.
"It seems like every year the crowd gets a little bigger and a little better," said Hudson, who led Auburn to the College World Series in 1997. "It's very gratifying."
The Home Run Derby was a billed as the Iron Bowl Grudge Match between teams led by Hudson and Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, from Huntsville. Kimbrel, an Alabama fan and Hudson's close friend, wore an Alabama shirt.
"I knew he was going to have one on," Hudson said. "He's a Bammer. What can you say?"
PGA champion Jason Dufner won the "closest to the pin" competition. Hudson, former Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and former Auburn quarterback Stan White teamed up against Dufner but couldn't beat him.
Former Auburn quarterback Pat Nix, now head coach at Scottsboro High School, and wide receiver Frank Sanders, a businessman in Phoenix, were introduced on the 20th anniversary of one of the bigger plays in Iron Bowl history. On fourth down at the Alabama 35 in 1993, Nix replaced White, who had been injured, and threw a game-turning touchdown pass to Sanders.
Hal Baird, who coached Auburn baseball from 1985-2000 and holds the Auburn record for victories, was also on hand with his wife, Janie.
Joining Hudson and Kimbrel were Braves' outfielder Jordan Schafer, former big leaguer Wes Helms, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus and minor league outfielder and former Auburns star Brian Fletcher.
Hudson, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle in July, has signed with the San Francisco Giants after nine seasons with the Braves. He spent his first five big-league seasons with the Oakland A's. He has a career record of 205-111.
Hudson showed no ill effects from the ankle injury.
"It's getting better," Hudson said. "It's not quite 100 percent yet, but it's getting close. It's right on schedule."
Hudson, one of the more popular Braves' players among fans and teammates, said he and his wife are looking forward to a new adventure.
"I'm going to finish my career where I started," Hudson said. "We're excited about it. San Francisco is a great place to play, a great pitcher's park. It's a fun place to play, an awesome place to play. We're excited."
Donaldson finished his Auburn career in 2007. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and then traded to the Athletics. He a career season in 2013, hitting .301 with 24 home runs 93 runs batted in. He made the fewest of any regular third baseman in the American League and was fourth MVP balloting.
"It was nice," Donaldson said. "It was one of those years that, as a little kid, you hope to have. For our team to be able to win so many games and win the West in back-to-back years is pretty special."
Donaldson, who lives in Daphne in the offseason, said Auburn is never far away, even when he is on the West Coast.
"Auburn holds a special spot in my heart," Donaldson said. "Auburn is more of a family than anywhere. I play all the way on the West Coast and people are yelling War Eagle for me. You don't see that happen many places."
Golloway, who moved from Oklahoma to Auburn last summer, watched it all and said it was unlike anything he'd seen before.
"It's a really great event," Golloway said. "I think when you bring student-athletes in you hope after they've spent their time with you they turn out to be outstanding men, husbands, fathers and pillars in their community. What great pillars Tim Hudson and his wife Kim are. For all these fans to come out and support their foundation, I'm humbled to be a part of it. I'm in awe of it, really."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: