The Arizona Diamondbacks' clubhouse was almost silent, the players murmuring among themselves while eating pregame meals.
Eric Byrnes looked across the room. Without Orlando Hudson, spring training wasn't quite the same, he said. Certainly not as loud.
Byrnes laughed as he recalled the playful barbs he and the Gold Glove second baseman used to exchange for everyone to hear. He said Hudson used to tease him for being "the California surfer dude." Byrnes would fire back by making fun of Hudson, a hunter, for spending his winters sitting on treetops "trying to kill Bambi."
"I already miss him," Byrnes said.
There will be something strange about seeing Hudson wearing the uniform of the division rival Dodgers, but Byrnes acknowledged that "the O-Dog" may be where he belongs.
"He's self-proclaimed Hollywood," Byrnes said. "He loves it. He loves the spotlight."
There wasn't much of that in Arizona.
The Diamondbacks drew an average of 30,986 fans per game last season, 15th-best in baseball -- and that was in a season that followed a a National League West championship.
The Dodgers distributed an average of 46,056 tickets per game, trailing only the two New York teams -- and that was in a season that extended their NL pennant drought to 21 years.
"L.A. is a happening city, so to speak," Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre said. "I think he'll fit in well. His style, he has flavor and he likes to talk."
Hudson said he's waited to play in a city like this his entire life. Growing up in South Carolina, where he still makes his off-season home, Hudson said he dreamed of one day playing for the New York Mets.
"It's fun to go in front of that stage," Hudson said.
He broke into the majors in 2002 with the Toronto Blue Jays, who never ranked higher than 23rd in reported attendance in his four years with the club. But he said some of his most memorable games took place in that period, pointing to the frequent trips the Blue Jays made to face the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
"If you sneeze wrong, everything's on ESPN," Hudson said. "Fans know when you get a bunt down, when you roll over."
L.A. might not be New York or Boston, but it's close enough. "The biggest stage in the West is L.A.," Hudson said.
But he didn't sign with the Dodgers by design.
He suffered a season-ending wrist injury in August, one Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said might be unprecedented in baseball. Trying to catch a wild throw from pitcher Juan Cruz, Hudson fell on his wrist, dislocating a bone and damaging tendons.
Hudson, who in the previous off-season turned down a reported four-year, $29-million extension offer from the Diamondbacks, found that he was a difficult sell in an already slow free-agent market.
He said he understood.
"Why would you take a chance on someone like that?" he asked.
He drew interest from the Washington Nationals, who appeared to become less interested once they saw his medical reports.
Hudson wasn't signed by the Dodgers until almost two weeks into spring training, settling for the kind of deal unbefitting a 31-year-old three-time Gold Glove winner: one year, guaranteed for $3.38 million.
He can earn an additional $4.62 million in performance incentives based on plate appearances. His $380,000 signing bonus and as much as $1.07 million of his incentive pay will be deferred without interest.
Playing in Los Angeles, however, he will be granted other opportunities.
He likes being around celebrities, for example -- something he was able to do in Toronto, where he met actors who were in town shooting movies.
He says he met director Spike Lee a couple of times and calls Deion Sanders, a teammate at triple-A Syracuse in 2002, one of his closest friends. Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child sang at his wedding in November.
"We can all relate the same way," Hudson said of celebrities. "We all work hard. You see Will Smith, he's dominating movies."
The way Hudson wants to dominate on the field.
Hudson hopes that being in Los Angeles will not only increase his interactions with the A-list crowd -- in particular, he wants to meet Magic Johnson -- but also give him a larger platform for his autism foundation, CATCH.
"They always got pushed to the side where I grew up," Hudson said of children with autism.
Hudson, who has a nephew with autism, said he has talked about his charity to actors Duane Martin and Tisha Campbell-Martin, who have a son with autism.
With April being Autism Awareness Month, Hudson said he has reached out to the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Jay Leno and Tyra Banks in hopes that they'll have him on their talk shows to discuss the disability.
If he is booked, he won't have any trouble with the talking part.
Hudson talks so much that he managed to strike up a friendship with Pierre even though they were never teammates and didn't exchange phone numbers until last year.