In any given baseball game, it’s commonplace to see the catcher and umpire share a continuous dialogue. The two men behind the plate are in constant communication, whether they’re discussing balls and strikes or just making small talk.
But during a Piedmont College game in 1986, Marvin Hudson had an exchange with an umpire that was more meaningful than most.
Dock Sisk casually asked the senior catcher if he’d be interested in officiating games. Little did Hudson know that simple offer would shape his future and take him to the pinnacle of baseball.
Hudson was part of the six-man crew that called the 2016 World Series, which saw the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians to end their 108-year championship drought in a dramatic Game 7. The Marietta native followed up that thrilling experience with another one just a few months later when he was one of three inductees into Piedmont Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 11.
“It was really special because I had a lot of my family and friends there,” Hudson said of the induction ceremony in Demorest. “They got to enjoy the ceremonies with me. Just to see the smiles on my kids’ and grandkids’ faces, that meant a lot to me.”
Having his family nearby is what he enjoyed most about calling his first World Series, as well.
Getting to work on the sport’s biggest stage — and witness history, at that — wasn’t so bad, either.
“It was awesome. The experience itself was great,” said Hudson, who lives in Wilkes County. “ ... Either team could have won. It was just one heck of a series. It was one of the best World Series in history, and just to be a part of it was really nice. I appreciated that.”
His path to this point took nearly three decades to complete and began on a baseball diamond in Habersham County.
Hudson, who played catcher at Piedmont from 1983-1986, accepted Sisk’s offer and started officiating high school football and basketball games. After graduating, he gravitated toward umpiring baseball games for high schools and low-tier local colleges.
“When (Sisk) asked me, I thought it would be something I would enjoy doing,” the 52-year-old said. “I thought it was fun doing small colleges, but I wanted to move up.”
Division I baseball was the next step for Hudson, who spent a few years at that level before making the most of an opportunity at Southern Umpires Camp in Atlanta.
Longtime umpire Joe Brinkman was among the MLB officials instructing there who urged him to attend umpire school, where he learned the basics of the two-man system practiced in the Minor Leagues. Hudson thrived at Brinkman’s clinic in Florida, finishing first in a class of about 125 in early 1992.
He and 16 others moved on to the Professional Baseball Umpire Program, which led to Hudson’s breakthrough gig in the Minor Leagues.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time coming through the system,” he said.
Hudson bounced around eight minor leagues until 1999, when he was officially promoted from the Dominican League to an MLB crew. He went on to work the 2004 All-Star game and a handful of postseason series before finally getting a shot to officiate the World Series last fall.
Hudson called the balls and strikes in Game 4, which the Cubs won 7-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
With millions of eyes upon him that night, Hudson said he simply took it one pitch at a time.
“There’s more pressure there,” he said. “But once you get out there and start working, you just go back to what you do day-in and day-out. That’s what you work for. For me to be back there in Game 4 meant a lot to me.”
Hudson was positioned on the third base line for Game 7 in Cleveland, which the Cubs won 8-7 in extra innings to complete their comeback and won the World Series for the first time in more than a century.
“There were a lot of Cubs fans there, but it was almost like the fans in Cleveland were cheering just because it was such a great series,” Hudson recalled. “You’re sitting here in Game 7, and then you go extra innings and it ends up the way it ends up.”
Though he cherished the experience, calling the World Series cut into Hudson’s already short offseason.
The Wilkes County man left last Friday for Fort Myers, Fla., where he’ll officiate spring training games through March. It’ll help him get back in the groove for the regular season, during which Hudson estimated he calls about 150 games.
He wouldn’t have it any other way, even when fans heckle him.
“I love the sport. I like being out there. When it came to umpiring I had a knack at it and enjoyed it,” Hudson said. “It doesn’t matter what I call; somebody isn’t going to be happy. I think it takes a little bit of a different person to be an official. I don’t mind getting yelled and screamed at. You’ve got to have confidence in what you’re doing.”
Above the noise of angry fans, he’s now the one chatting up catchers behind the plate.