Former teammates reflect on their friend Hanson
Onetime Braves pitcher remembered for warm heart, fun-loving personality
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- As the week has progressed, Tim Hudson does not believe he has gone a waking minute without thinking about Tommy Hanson. Images and memories of the big red-headed pitcher have constantly danced in Hudson's mind since early Monday morning, when Kris Medlen delivered an unexpected call with an unwanted message.
"He couldn't hardly get two words out when he called me," Hudson said. "He was all shook up as you could imagine. That was his best friend. [Hanson] was good friends with a lot of people, but he and Kris were essentially brothers."
Still basking in the glory of the World Series celebration he and his Royals teammates had enjoyed less than a week earlier, Medlen received a call on Sunday night that led him to rush from Augusta, Ga., to the Atlanta-area hospital where Hanson lay in a coma. The chilling and sobering experience reached a tragic conclusion late Monday night, when the 29-year-old Hanson was pronounced dead.
"I've never experienced anything like this in my life," Peter Moylan said. "I've always been the guy that has had to support other people. I've never been the guy who has thought, 'This is really going to hit me really hard.'"
As Hudson, Medlen and Moylan have spent this week grieving the loss of a beloved friend, they have reached out to some of their other former Braves teammates to reminisce about the times they shared with Hanson and to simply take advantage of the chance to remind the other how much they savor their friendships.
"I got two text messages from friends I had with the Braves that just said, 'I love you and I am thinking about you,'" former Braves catcher David Ross said. "You don't take that kind of stuff for granted. It kind of puts everything in perspective. It's nice to come back to reality and not care so much about baseball wins and losses. It's about the human beings that we get to come in contact with."
Medlen and Hanson developed a close friendship as they broke into the professional ranks in 2006. They made their respective Major League debuts with the 2009 Braves approximately three weeks apart and immediately earned the acceptance of veterans like Hudson.
"You play baseball and you have an opportunity to bond with people in this game," Hudson said. "There is a brotherhood in this game. I think Tommy had a special bond with a lot of people he played with in the game. He was the kind of person that you almost instantaneously hit it off with him. He was easy to get along with. He was that kind of free spirit that just made everything right and just made everything good."
Hanson enjoyed immediate success, finishing third in the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. He posted a 2.99 ERA through the 72 career starts he made before he began battling a back ailment that significantly altered his career. A rough 2012 season led the Braves to trade Hanson to the Angels, who saw him make the final 15 Major League appearances of his career in 2013.
Along with dealing with the injury and the trade, Hanson was devastated during that 2013 season when his younger brother suddenly died. He took some time off to clear his head, but those who knew him best realize he never fully recovered from the pain.
"He took it hard, obviously, but I don't think anybody really knew how hard, because that was the kind of guy he was," Moylan said. "He was more concerned about everybody else than he was himself. He was always making sure everyone else was all right and in the right place."
Though an official cause of death has not been determined, the rescue crew that attempted to revive Hanson early Sunday morning wrote "overdose" on the report. While that has only spiked the initial speculation that drugs played a part in his untimely death, Hanson's friends and former teammates are hoping fans remember that we may never know exactly what led to this death.
"I'm sure there are going to be people that are going to say he was doing this or he was doing that," Hudson said. "At any point of anyone's life, they could be dealing with things that some people just can't understand. So don't be so quick to judge somebody with something like this."
"When you sit back, it just guts your heart," Moylan said. "You start to think about what you've done and think, 'Should I have called him or reached out to him?' But I try to forget about that kind of stuff and remember the hilarious times that we ended up having while we were together."
Hudson is among the many who have chosen to simply reflect on the many good times he shared with Hanson, who had a charitable heart, a fun-loving personality and a smile that seemed to provide comfort to both friends and strangers.
"He was the guy you wanted to have around because he had that infectious smile," Moylan said. "He was just a genuine, warmhearted guy that would do anything for you and his family."
Instead of simply showing up at charity events, Hanson attempted to personally touch the lives of those involved. At a 2011 bowling event held in Atlanta, he did not only sign autographs for military members who had just returned to the United States. Hanson went lane-to-lane carrying on conversations with the soldiers and their family members.
While attending a charity concert the Hudson family staged in Auburn, Ala., Hanson warmed the heart of a young cancer patient when he asked her for an autograph.
"Anybody who truly knew him knew how sweet of a guy he was," Hudson said. "He was always there for everybody. He always had that big smile and supported anything that anybody ever had to do and he did it with gratitude. It makes me sick. My heart hurts real bad."