Hudson's charity has him up for Clemente

Hudson's charity has him up for Clemente

Hudson's charity has him up for Clemente
SAN DIEGO -- It's easy for Orlando Hudson to trace his interest in helping children with autism, although the veteran second baseman has to go back a ways to remember how it all started.

Long before Hudson's non-profit foundation called C.A.T.C.H. -- Curing Autism Through Change and Hope -- was started, Hudson was a student-athlete at Darlington High School in South Carolina.

"I would see how the autistic kids were sort of pushed aside from the rest of the students, so I would hang out with them," Hudson said. "I would go spend time with them before football games or go eat lunch with them.

"I remember telling my mother that if I was blessed enough to make some money in my career that I was going to have my own autistic school."

Hudson has made an impact on many lives with his C.A.T.C.H. Foundation, as well as many other charitable endeavors in which he's involved.

Hudson is the Padres' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for 2011. Hudson is a two-time nominee for the award, in 2007 with the D-backs and '09 with the Dodgers.

All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.

Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 9.

The fan-ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2011 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.

Hudson has a charity basketball event called the "MBM Basketball Classic," with money benefiting the special education department in Darlington County.

He also helped launch the "Around the Mound Tour," a national program that is designed to get African-America youth interested in baseball.

This year, Hudson has made numerous appearances and sponsored special events that have included hosting 50 children and families at the "Mobile Petting Zoo" for Rady Children's Hospital.

Heck, Hudson even dresses up as Santa each December before distributing gifts to local children.

But the C.A.T.C.H. Foundation is the charitable endeavor that's resonates deepest within him.

Founded in 2008, C.A.T.C.H. has helped enable children with autism enjoy a normal life by providing outlets for proper therapy, education and extracurricular activities.

"To put a smile on those kids faces ... they put a big smile on mine," Hudson said. "These kids are smart and they're brave. I want to make life better for them. I want them to have opportunities."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.