Thursday, March 7, 2013
Jerry Hairston Jr. reflects on MLB career
By Chris Gigley ESPN The Magazine
The 16-year MLB vet has played for nine teams, including his current stint with the Dodgers.
Time has sneaked up on Los Angeles Dodgers utility man Jerry Hairston Jr.
After being drafted in the 11th round by Baltimore in 1997, Hairston broke into the bigs with the Orioles the following season and has stuck around ever since, logging 16 MLB seasons and playing with nine different teams.
The 36-year-old veteran, a career .259 hitter, won a World Series ring as part of the 2009 New York Yankees.
Hairston has seen a lot in his career. In the latest edition of Team Player, he talks about his favorite memories of his MLB life thus far.
Which team that you played on has been your favorite?
That's a tough question. I've taken something great from every team I've been on. Whether I've been on the East Coast or West Coast or Chicago, my hometown, each season is special because it's a privilege to put on a big league uniform. That's something I'm really starting to appreciate as I get older.
You're getting nostalgic already?
Think about it. I'm one of 700 or so people who are playing in the big leagues. There are a lot of doctors out there. There are a lot of lawyers. But there are very few people playing major league baseball. A doctor helped me see that.
How about the 2009 Yankees? You won a World Series there.
The Yankees start and end with Jeter, says Hairston.
We were a very talented group. We were expected to win it all. That was pressure, but we also put pressure on ourselves because we knew a team like that doesn't come along very often. Obviously Mariano [Rivera] and Derek [Jeter] had won, but it had been awhile. We felt we had the best starting nine. We had an unbelievable pitching staff. We had a really good bench with myself and Eric Hinske. We felt like we were a complete team and we were able to pull it off.
It was an unbelievable feeling. The people in New York really appreciated that championship. After everything that had happened between them and Boston, with the Sox winning two titles, Yankee fans were getting really restless.
I'll bet they loved you after you won, right?
To this day, I'll be standing in the on-deck circle and a Yankee fan in the crowd will yell, "Jerry, thanks for 2009!" They're so appreciative. During the season, two weeks won't go by without me hearing it. Doesn't matter where I am. It's unbelievable.
Did you feel more pressure playing in New York or Chicago, where you grew up?
If there's one thing in my career I wish I could change, it would be how I played there. I was still trying to find my way when I was in Chicago in '05 and '06. I was just starting to be a utility guy. I really wanted to play well. I was traded for Sammy Sosa. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well for the fans, and it didn't work out that way. I wish it would have ended differently, but all I can do is learn from it and pass that on to my brother Scott, who plays for the Cubs now. I tell him not to put too much pressure on himself.
Which of your teams was the tightest away from the ballpark?
Believe it or not, the Yankee team was pretty tight. There was really good leadership in the clubhouse, and we all went to dinners together a lot. I loved going out with those guys because I never paid. You've got Derek and CC [Sabathia] making the huge money. That was a good thing for me.
There were a lot of veteran leaders on that team. Who was the top dog?
It starts and ends with Derek. He's not the most vocal guy. Don't get me wrong, he'll say something when it needs to be said. But he's a lot like Cal Ripken Jr. When he spoke, everyone on the team listened. His opinion carries a lot of weight, and I think that speaks to the way he plays. He's 6-feet-4, but he plays the game like he's 5-feet-7, 180 lbs. He's a grinder. He comes after you every single day. I knew that from playing against him, but getting to see it every day was something else. That was cool to see.
What's your favorite road trip memory?
There are so many. It doesn't matter which team you're talking about, going to dinner with the guys is the best. We play this game called "credit card roulette." All the veteran guys put their credit cards into the hat and the last two in there have to split the bill.
Is there a team you had more fun with than others?
The 2005 Cubs, definitely. Ryan Dempster and Greg Maddux were there. Demp would get going with his Harry Caray impression. He's one of the funniest guys I've ever been around. And Maddux had such a dry sense of humor. When we all went out to dinner together, they'd go back and forth. We didn't win because of injuries, but I remember guys on that team were always laughing. Those two kept everyone loose.
Was Dempster the quirkiest teammate you ever played with?
He was the funniest. The quirkiest was Tony Batista, the third baseman with the Jays and Orioles. Hit a lot of home runs. He was definitely a different cat, in a great way, with all his antics. Even his batting stance was quirky. Just YouTube Tony Batista and you'll see.