PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla — Tampa-native Joe Hudson had one destination in mind when he was playing youth baseball. This spring, the Rays are giving the 30-year-old catcher a chance by inviting him to spring training.
"As a kid you grow up wanting to play at the Trop. That’s just kinda how it is," Hudson said. He also said the Rays organization has a reputation for developing players' talents. "I’ve had a lot of teammates and friends over the years that come over here and they get better, and their careers get enhanced. So hopefully I’ll fall in line with that."
Joe grew up a Rays fan. He was at the game in 1999 when Wade Boggs got his 3,000th hit, but he's partial to fellow Tampa-native Fred McGriff.
"I grew up with Fred McGriff’s son, Eric. We played a lot of travel ball together, All-Stars. I was a big Fred McGriff fan just because of our connection there," Hudson said. "Not a specific game that sticks out in mind with Fred. But just the swing in general. The high helicopter finish. Often imitated, never duplicated, y’know."
Hudson, a Tampa Jesuit grad, says he needs to learn everything about the pitchers on the staff if he wants to earn a spot on the roster.
"You gotta sit down with these guys, talk to ‘em and get to know them as a person. Things like that will stick out in their mind," he said. "There’s really no secret sauce to it. Get to know where they’re from. Get to know their family. I think that makes it a seamless transition."
Hudson's also a big Buccaneers fan. Add him to the list of people who went crazy after Tom Brady announced he was coming out of retirement to re-join Tampa Bay.
"Oh my goodness, I was texting all of my friends," Hudson laughed. "There was a good chance I wasn’t going to watch the NFL next year. But that’s not the case anymore. Big Tom Brady fan. Big Bucs fan."