Dirk Hayhurst is a 26-year-old
righthanded reliever in the Padres system who has spent parts of three
seasons at high Class A Lake Elsinore.
he made it all the way to Triple-A Portland last season, Hayhurst began
this year back with the Storm, officially making him a California
after going 0-1, 1.80 at the Lake, Hayhurst was promoted to Double-A
San Antonio in early May, where he is currently 3-0, 2.92 over in 25 innings.
2003 eighth-round pick out of Kent State is writing a diary for
Baseball America this season, delving into the side of the minor
leagues fans seldom see.
I have played professional baseball for the last five years now. I love my job and things are going great.
But I have a confession to make.
An apology of sorts.
This job in of itself is not very important. We don’t cure sick people or pass laws or teach the youth. We play a game.
However, sports figures, even little ones like me, are looked at as role models in our society. For better or for worse, we have a public voice.
Whether we deserve it or not, and we don’t, is irrelevant–we’ve got it.
Here is what I want to apologize for: I have not used that public voice do make the world around me a better place when I could have.
It’s not like I’ve been out fighting dogs or selling drugs; it’s just I haven’t really done anything. I sit back and continue to believe that the world revolves around me, which is easy to do when people beg for your autograph, even for an article of clothing you’ve touched. But it’s a lie.
I am nothing special. Let me prove it.
This offseason I decided to work at a homeless shelter. It wasn’t a publicity stunt, and I’m not revealing this to make myself look golden.
Honestly, I tried to talk myself out of it. I had thoughts like “I can’t do this because I am not one of those volunteer kind of people–they are the ones that excel at this.”
Then I thought, “I would help these folks out a lot more if I just made it to the big leagues and bought them all houses. I need to focus on me.”
In the back of my mind I would always be thinking, “Besides, you only become homeless in America if you make bad choices, so they must deserve it right?”
Pathetic? Yes. Misguided? Sure. But true. I thought that way.
Then I wound up going. This is what I learned: That people in those shelters had more in common with me then I could have ever imagined. They are marginalized people. Folks the world has forgotten. Pushed out of the norms of our society and stereotyped as something they are not. They would tell me stories of their hardships; medical bills, family tragedy, layoffs, cutbacks, abuse, fires. Not the “bad choices” I had stereotyped them into. Just heartbreaking reality.
You may be wondering how is this like pro baseball? Well, those people in that shelter, are real people. Just like I am a real person. I play a high-profile sport, and they live a low-profile life but we are still people–equally valuable and equally broken.
Each of us lives in a culture that makes us into something we are not. I am not great because I wear a costume for a living or because I am blessed with a strong throwing arm. They are not bad people because life has dealt them a cruel hand. We are the same.
When I first went into that shelter, I brought minor league baseball cards with me. I was going to sign them and hand them out because most people love this. I thought it would be great.
Then, as I stared into the eyes of a man whose shoes were soaked from the winter slush, whose face was warn from life’s hardships and shoulders heavy from carrying all his possessions, it dawned on me: What the hell is my signature on a piece of cardboard going to do for this man? Do I really want to live in a world where my autograph can make people line up to receive it but a man’s life can be pushed aside and forgotten?
I thought I was going to be a great person for spending time with those marginalized people, because going into it I really did believe I was better then they were. After all, I was one of our culture’s golden boys. But this is before I knew the truth.
Sure, if you asked I’d say all life is equal. Most of us would. But you need only look at the world around you to see we don’t act that way. Those people gave me more than I could have ever given them. They broke the bubble of my selfishness and helped me see the misappropriation of importance our culture places on titles and stations.
I am a pro baseball player, but there is nothing important about me that is not also important about you.
We are the same. We are people and need one another. If we are the same, than our voices should have the same power. We don’t have to be big league baseball players to save the world, because big league or not, we all have hearts and the ability to act, love, show kindness, humility and mercy.
Those things know no class distinction, nor should we.
To send Dirk questions or comments, feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.