Anyone who has grown up as a baseball fan in the area understands the intensity of the rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
Cardinal fans bleed red and Cubs fans bleed blue — it’s that simple. History has gone the direction of the Cards, there is no doubt about that. They have 11 world championships since 1926, while the Cubbies haven’t won one since 1908 and haven’t even played in the Fall Classic since 1945.
The Cubs have 2 World Series championships, 10 pennants and 17 playoff appearances. In comparison, the Gateway City has those 11 World Series titles, 19 pennants and a whopping 28 playoff appearances.
The 2015 season turned to a new chapter in the rivalry, as the squads squared off in the postseason for the first time. Chicago owns those bragging rights, besting the Birds 3-1 in the 5-game National League Division Series.
Cast in the middle of the conflict is 2015 Alton High grad Bryan Hudson. Hudson’s rise has been well-documented; taken in the third round by the Cubbies in this year’s MLB Amateur Draft. Chicago President Theo Epstein was so enamored with Hudson he even visited Lloyd Hopkins Field to watch him pitch for AHS.
Hudson traveled to Mesa, Ariz., to compete for the Arizona Cubs late this summer and fall and was smack dab in the middle of the turf war when the two lovable Midwestern baseball franchises met in October.
A lifelong Godfrey resident and fervent Cardinal fan, Hudson found himself in a unique predicament. Baseball is now his job, so is it cheer for his employer, or stick with his lifetime love affair with the birds on the bat? It was a head scratcher for the 18-year-old Hudson.
“That was a really, really cool experience,” Hudson said recently via telephone of the Cardinals-Cubs playoff matchup. “I had a bunch of people asking me who I was rooting for, but I couldn’t really say. I just kind of stayed in between. I was happy for whichever team won.”
And that’s the type of objectivity he will have to stick with for the rivalry, but that doesn’t mean he’s not excited to be part of the Cubs organization.
As a lifelong Cardinal fan myself, it’s hard to admit for me, but the Cubbies’ future is bright. Hudson is cast in a stellar situation.
Just look at the postseason awards this offseason. Chicago manager Joe Madden was named NL Manager of the Year, Kris Bryant was tagged NL Rookie of the Year and ace pitcher Jake Arrieta garnered the NL Cy Young Award.
Baseball America had the Cubs ranked with the best minor league system entering 2015. That same farm system was 4th in 2014 and 12th in 2013, so Epstein has them on the rise. Bryant was the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year.
In comparison, the Cardinals were ranked 16th by Baseball America for 2015, but were 7th in ‘14 and 1st in ‘13, so there is a lot of youth there, too.
Hudson is thrilled to be a part of it all. He sees the prosperous time to come for his employer and sustainable excellence by his fan favorites. Watching the Cubs in the playoffs this season was a highlight for him.
“It was amazing just because it’s been so long since they’ve had any real recognition, so for the Cubs to beat a solid team in the Cardinals it’s been awesome,” Hudson said. “They just have a lot of young talent that’s sprouting at the right time. It’s looking good.”
Let’s cross our fingers that Alton’s 6-foot-8 southpaw with the dynamic curveball can be a bigger part of this fantastic rivalry sooner than later. The next big step for Hudson will be being a part of spring training in 2016.
It will be a great learning experience and he’ll get to rub elbows with the newest media darlings on the Chicago MLB roster.
“Unfortunately I haven’t meant any of them,” Hudson said. “Those guys all start really meeting in spring training, which is going to be awesome. I can’t wait.”
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