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.
This past week the Missions headed up to Arkansas to play the Travelers. It’s a long bus trip so I was thrilled when they told us we were flying.
The team was up early to pile on a bus to the airport. Once there, things went smoothly, like the opening scenes from Meet the Fockers. The plane was late, but that just gave us more time to waste travel money on overpriced airport kitsch. Everyone was in high spirits for the trip, and even though the plane was late, we were content. We were missing a 10-hour bus trip after all.
If you have read any of my previous rants about minor league travel, then you know how I feel about the mysterious nature of claiming bus seats. On a plane you don’t have that problem because the airline assigns you a nice little letter with corresponding number to take all the pain out of the seating process. Well, most airlines do, but we were flying Southwest and Southwest doesn’t do seat numbers–its all first come first serve.
How absolutely appropriate for minor league travel!
When I got on the plane there were already plenty of folks on board. I briefly wondered just how I could explain to a random passenger, completely non-affiliated with the unwritten codes of baseball, why they needed to give me their seat because I got more High A time then them. I decided against it.
It’s pretty easy to attract attention when you travel in a pack, 35 deep, of rowdy baseball players. We are all behaving ourselves of course, but you can still tell we are together. The people around instinctively know we’re a team or a group. You can tell they want to know what we are up to. It’s just a matter of time before the questions start.
Hopefully we can just sit down and and get our iPod’s plugged in and eyes closed before the questions start. But if we can’t, if someone fires the million-dollar question at us before we can get occupied, we will find ourselves at a major crossroads. The rest of the flight hinges on this moment. This is the million dollar question: “Are you guys a team or something?”
At first this seems innocent enough. What could possibly be the harm in saying, “Yes, we are.”
More then you know! Let me explain. If you say yes you are a team, the next question will be “Oh, what do you play?” If you answer this question honestly, there is no turning back. I’ll play it out for you.
Kind blue-haired lady asks, “Are you gentlemen a team?”
“Yes ma’am, we are,” replies dashing young righthanded pitcher.
“Oh my, what sport to do you play?”
“Well, we are a professional baseball team with the XXXXXXX.”
Instantaneous whispering is heard all around the plane like “Did you hear that? They’re professional baseball players…” Your teammate across the aisle gives you the look of death because the lady next to him, whom he just told he was a janitor heading to a convention, is on to him now and bursting with questions of her own.
“A professional baseball player . . . my, that must be exciting!” exclaims blue haired lady.
“Yes ma’am. Yes it is,” responds dashing righthander.
“Well, what position do you play?”
“I’m a pitcher.”
“Oh, my grandson is a pitcher. He loves baseball! You know he…”
Feel free to leap from the plane at this point and find a seat out on the wing. No, I am not trying to be a jerk because its not that I don’t care about the lady, or her grandson–they are good people.
It’s just I have heard this story a million times before. We all have. And there is nothing we can do now that it’s started. We aren’t going to be mean about it. We are going to be professional and courteous and ride it out. It just comes with the job. We’ll sit there and do our best to feign interest, but all we want to do is go to sleep or read that magazine we just bought at the Sky Mart. (Or wait until the teammate in front of you goes to sleep and then ring his call button!)
Once begun, the story will go on for a good long time, and during its telling I’ll hear how good grandson is, how much he loves baseball, how good he played on some obscure date, how the grandmother thinks he’s going to be a big leaguer someday . . .
“You know his Father, was a good pitcher too.”
“Oh my yes, he could really throw it. The boys used to come from the next town over and ask him to be on their team.”
“And his Grandfather . . . ”
And on it will go until I am hearing about prohibition and the day Terrence fixed the tractor so they could pull that tree out of the driveway after the storm of ’48.
Meanwhile, my teammate one row back has the “I’d be a pro right now if I didn’t get screwed” guy sitting next to him. I will take a sweet old grandmothers tale of yesteryear over this guy any day. Oh man, it’s so hard to convey to you just how annoying this guy is and I swear to you I meet a guy like this about 10 times a season. Once he finds out your a pro baseball player, he can’t stop telling you how he SHOULD have been one too if: A) his arm didn’t blow out because the stupid coach in high school made him throw all curveballs; B) his coach wasn’t such a jerk and he had to quit because he wasn’t going to play for him because he hurt his feelings; or C) he got his girlfriend pregnant.
This guy is the one who will tell you things like “Back in high school, I am sure I was throwing at least 96 because no one could hit me,” or “My dad has coached some teams before, like little league teams, and he said I had the best breaking ball he’d ever seen, and I think he would know.”
If you are this guy and you are reading this, please know you have my sympathy. But, realize that we had obstacles to overcome on our way to making it to the pros too. We have all had jerky coaches, bad advice, and hot girlfriends (well, I had the first two anyway).
We know what you’re up against. We are all very sorry things didn’t work out for you. Please let this be a salve to your wounds. Now that I have said that, please stop lying awake at night plotting revenge for your old coach. Oh, and understand that I can’t really do anything to help what happened 20 years ago. I was 6 years old. I wanted to grow up to be Batman.
Sure there are other personality types that you will run into in during these awkward public excursions, like “Can you get me or my son a job” guy, or even, “I have a friend of a friend of a friend who hangs out with A-Rod” guy. (Just so you know, I can’t get you a job and if you have that many friends between you and A-Rod then technically you’re probably friends with Kevin Bacon as well.) Those above however, are the most common.
I love baseball fans, I do. I am not trying to knock them . . . too much. I am just stating some facts. When people find out we are players, on planes, in restaurants, in the stands, they feel compelled to tell us their stories. And most of the time, we like to listen, because honestly we care. We are people too. We have our own stories, and someday we’ll be telling our great tales of yesterday to some impatient youth or cocky punk who doesn’t care about how we could throw a baseball as far as Uncle Rico back in the glory days.
To send Dirk questions or comments, feel free to e-mail him at [email protected]