Auburn baseball departs for College World Series in Omaha

Auburn baseball great Tim Hudson looks on as fans gather to send off the Auburn baseball team Wednesday on its way to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series. (By Justin Lee/jlee@oanow.com)

Tim Hudson peered around Plainsman Park on Wednesday morning, from under the orange brim of his Auburn baseball cap.

Soon enough, along the brick walls facing the terrace there at his old ballpark, there’ll be new pennants posted for the world to see, and new banners to hang all over those beloved grounds.

Hudson can’t wait to see them.

The Auburn baseball team has taken the program back to the College World Series for the first time since Hudson’s group made it in 1997 — and Hudson was among those at Plainsman Park on Wednesday morning waving the current team off on its way to Omaha, Neb., and off on its way to make more Auburn baseball history.

“It’s awesome,” Hudson said, of knowing his old team has new company in the Auburn record books.

“You know, these boys, they’ve cemented themselves in Auburn baseball legendary status, getting there again,” he nodded.

He’d know. Hudson is a four-time All-Star in the Major Leagues, a fan favorite from a 17-year pro career, a member of the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame, and a campus legend back on the Plains after he earned SEC  Player of the Year and All-American honors while helping to lead Auburn to the 1997 College World Series.

“Obviously, 22 years is a long time,” Hudson said. “I think there was only maybe a few of those boys that were alive the last time we went.

“I’m just so proud of them.”

Since his retirement in 2015, Hudson’s become even more visible at events in his long support of Auburn athletics. Wednesday morning, he was just another supporter in orange and blue among dozens lining the path from the Auburn baseball offices at the ballpark to the buses idling nearby on Donahue Drive set to take the team to the airport.

Amid the festive air before fans patted players’ backs and cheered as the team loaded up the bus, current Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said Hudson wasn’t the only Tigers legend to reach out to congratulate the team on reaching elite company. Chris Morrison, from Auburn’s 1994 College World Series team, and Rob McCrory from both of the 1994 and 1997 teams had also reached out, among others.

“It’s an exciting time for us with Auburn baseball,” Thompson said.

Auburn’s been to the College World Series five times in its history, in 1967, 1976, 1994, 1997 and now 2019.

“The job that Butch and his staff has done this year, being able to persevere through a lot of injuries and tragedy — I’m really excited for these boys,” Hudson said. “They’ve worked so hard, they’ve fought through a lot of things, and this is a good reward for them.

“But, you know, the season’s not over. I think they’re going out there ready to win some ballgames. But I couldn’t be more proud to be an Auburn Tiger, and especially a baseball alum.”

Auburn flew into Omaha on Wednesday and will make an appearance at the MLB game at T.D. Ameritrade Park Omaha today before practicing there Friday as the College World Series gets set to gear up in the stadium Saturday.

Auburn is set to open its run in the tournament on Sunday night against Mississippi State.

Auburn boasts the only athletics department to send teams to a college football bowl game, the men’s basketball Final Four, and college baseball’s College World Series.

“I just think the state of Auburn athletics right now is in a really good place,” Hudson said. “Obviously, the job that Bruce (Pearl) has done with the basketball program, the job that Butch has been doing here with this baseball program over the last few years, and I think Gus (Malzahn) has got the football program moving in the right direction.

“We’re really excited to be Auburn people. I think just to be an alumni of this university and obviously this baseball program is something I’m very proud of. It’s a good place. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger.”

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