Up-and-coming Reds have Lois Hudson to thank
CINCINNATI -- What Lois Hudson does for the Reds doesn't appear on the back of a baseball card, nor can it be found in the copious statistics that can be gleaned across the Internet.
In her role as the Reds' director of Minor League administration, Hudson has the dependability of a Gold Glove Award-winning infielder and the innate ability to come through in the clutch. When she is on the job, nobody gets left on base -- so to speak.
"She was that go-to person, no matter what you needed," Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart said. "I could ask her for whatever."
Hudson, 74, first joined the organization in the mid-1980s as a part-time secretary in what was supposed to be a temporary job to help the Reds get ready for the First-Year Player Draft. That job lasted four years before she left for two years. In 1991, Hudson was rehired by then-general manager Jim Bowden.
Hudson has since worked for four GMs and 10 Minor League directors. For thousands of wide-eyed young players, many of whom are signed as teenagers entering the real world for the first time, she was and is indispensable as a problem solver and fixer as they navigate their way toward the dream destination of reaching the Majors.
"That's what I like about my job. I like helping players when they come in," Hudson said. "Within about a week, they all have my cellphone number. I'm available to answer questions in the middle of the night, they know that.
"My biggest reward is when the younger guys I've helped put on a Major League uniform."
Many of the young men Hudson has dealt with over the years are dealing with regular grown-up issues for the first time -- like insurance, payroll, human resources, immigration issues and workers' compensation.
"Every day is a different day. That's what I love about it," she said. "There are different problems that come up, different situations. I'm kind of an accounting department, an HR department, contracts and basically everything. They have split up my job at other companies pretty much. Since I've been doing it so long, I've just kept it all."
Cozart first joined the Reds in 2007 after he was drafted in the second round out of the University of Mississippi. One of the first people he spoke with in the organization after being selected was Hudson.
"She was the lady I went to for pretty much everything -- whether it was meal money or housing or whatever it was," Cozart said. "I had surgery in 2007, and she took care of me down in Sarasota, [Fla.].
"She does a lot of little things. I do know she helped me out a ton. When you're a young kid and get to pro ball, you're shellshocked from everything. She kind of helps you get through. She does your insurance stuff, payroll, meal money, and everything is through her. I've emailed her back and forth. I've called her office. There are a bunch of things she helped out with. I guarantee that guys who came up through the Reds organization will say the same thing."
On Aug. 14, 2009, Cincinnati made a trade that sent veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez to Boston for Kristopher Negron. At the time, Negron was a Class A level shortstop who did not know a soul with the Reds.
Negron very much appreciated having Hudson's help with the transition, and he still seeks her out on occasion, even as a Major Leaguer.
"I definitely needed her when I got traded and coming up," Negron said. "She was my go-to woman. When anything came up, she was the email that I had. I even emailed her this offseason. My wife and I bought a house, I emailed [Reds traveling secretary] Gary [Wahoff], but I decided to fire it off to Lois, too."
During the past Winter Meetings in San Diego, Hudson was presented with the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award, which has been given since 2008 for distinguished service and being instrumental in player development. Bender himself was in Cincinnati's front office for 39 years, including as the team's farm director.
"That's what I'm here for, just to take care of everybody and the affiliates," Hudson said. "I learned that from Chief Bender. Just be sure you are there for anybody."
Hudson has adapted to the times and technology, as she has gone from typing her documents and contracts in triplicate to becoming adept with a computer and an iPhone to do her job.
But easier technology or not, she has also taken on the hard task of balancing being a baseball lifer while being married 55 years to her husband, Jack, plus being a mother of three grown sons and a grandmother of eight.
"I've been able to manage baseball and family life. My family supports me," Hudson said. "I always say that when I wake up some day and say I don't want to go to work, then it's time to leave. I still enjoy what I do. I still want to be here every day. I love baseball. I love the kids. I love the people. It's just a joy getting something like this to do."