Hudson, 35, received the national award at a fundraising luncheon at Safeco Field for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and said he was humbled to be associated with an honor previously earned by the likes of Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Pete Rose, Joe Torre, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, George Brett and Johnny Bench.
"There are some pretty big-time names on that list," Hudson told the crowd of about 800 gathered at tables in center field of the Mariners' ballpark. "I'm wondering where I fit in there alongside Mickey Mantle and those guys. But hey, I'll take it."
The humble Hudson actually fits in quite well, both in terms of baseball and off-field works. At 35, he battled back from Tommy John surgery to earn National League Comeback Player of the Year Award last season after going 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA. But in addition to his outstanding 155-81 career record and 3.44 ERA, Hudson has also been a force in the community.
Hudson and his wife, Kim, launched the Hudson Family Foundation in 2009 to help kids with special physical, emotional or financial needs.
The Hudsons have been active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia and Alabama, as well as Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. They recently joined forces with the Jamie Moyer Foundation to support "Camp Erin," a bereavement camp for children who have experienced the death of a parent or loved one, establishing "Camp Erin Atlanta," which opened in 2009.
Hudson left no doubt how much those things matter to him after spending two days in Seattle touring the Fred Hutchinson Center and spending time with kids at the Hutch School, which provides classes for children fighting cancer and their siblings while they're undergoing the long months of treatment at the facility.
"This is what is important in life, helping people and trying to make a difference," Hudson said after the benefit luncheon. "What kind of legacy are you going to leave when you're dead and gone?
"For me, it's not what kind of baseball player he was or what was his ERA or wins. That's all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, what kind of person are you and what have you done with the gifts you've been blessed with? It's important to give back and try to make a difference in the lives of people."
The Hutch Award has been given annually since 1965 in honor of Major League player and manager Fred Hutchinson, who died of cancer a year earlier at the age of 45.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center resides in Seattle, the hometown of the man who managed the Cincinnati Reds to the 1961 World Series. Every year the Hutch Lunch raises money for cancer research and honors one of the Major League's top citizens.
Moyer, who won the Hutch Award in 2003, was at Wednesday's event and said he and his wife, Karen, have been working with Hudson the past few years to expand their "Camp Erin" project. Hudson said the plan now is to open one of the facilities in Auburn, Ala., where he lives in the offseason.
"It's really cool to see players give back, whether it's in their own community or where they live or play," said Moyer, 47, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery while planning to stage his own comeback in 2012. "Tim and his wife do a great job. We've gotten to know them quite well through our own Foundation. It's nice. Even though you're not teammates, you can do some special things."
Hudson, who has three children of his own, said kids have always been his focus and the Moyer affiliation is a natural. He'll also use his own Hudson Family Foundation to help other children's causes, such as Make-A-Wish and cancer research.
"This has been an awesome experience," he said of his whirlwind two days in Seattle. "It's a tremendous honor, just having my name associated with the Hutch Award and all they do for cancer research. It really goes along with my wife and my passion with children and helping with pediatric cancer research. It's great just to be part of this."
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was the keynote speaker at Wednesday's luncheon, and he had to stop momentarily when talking about his memory of visiting sick children in the hospital while he was a player.
"After four or five months, I began noticing some of those kids weren't there anymore," Morgan said. "If they'd had some of this advancement in research back then, some of those kids would still be with us."
Both he and Hudson were moved by the opportunity to visit the Hutch Research Center and meet with physicians working toward finding cures.
"They're blessed with a gift," Hudson said. "They're so smart, and it's great to see people passionate about trying to find a cure for cancer. At any moment, you could be on the other side of that bed and be sick. Just knowing they're making strides in finding cures is awesome. They're so optimistic about things, it's catching."
More information on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Hutch Award can be found at www.fhcrc.org.