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, and made two appearances at Triple-A Portland
before settling into the Missions’ bullpen. Currently, Hayhurst is 4-1,
3.30 in 57 innings in the Texas League.
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.
“Mr. Hayhurst, Mr. Hayhurst, Mr. Hayhurst!”
It’™s another day, and another game. The smell of concession stand food is in the air, music is playing, and the announcer is rattling off names for each team’™s lineup. The video board is flashing stats and upcoming dates. Mascots are buzzing around mussing up kid’™s hair and playing peek-a-boo. The sun is shinning, the birds are chirping–it’™s the perfect movie cliché day for a ballgame.
Fans press against the low-cut concrete wall that separates them from the field. They beckon to their favorite player, calling out his name in different combinations of references. Some people call us by our first name, even though they have never formally met us. Others by are last. Some use the prefix Mr., others just chant our number. Some use a mixture of each one, like getting our attention was the same as picking a combination lock.
During these pregame moments is when most autographs are signed. I would wager the majority of those autographed balls are done by non-starters and relief pitchers, like me. It’™s not because we are somehow more generous with our signatures. It’™s because we have nothing to do before the game. While our starting teammates get prepped for first pitch, we just try and look important in our fresh, clean uniforms.
The starters need to be ready for the game. So, they warm up, stretch, throw, and get locked in for the nine-inning marathon. Don’™t be surprised when don’™t come tearing out of their stretch lines to sign your program–they’™re getting ready for work. At the same time, don’™t be surprised when the player standing two feet from the wall, the one acting like he is scanning the crowd for someone he knows while continuously primping his spotless jersey, responds to the question, “What position do you play?” with, “I’™m a pitcher.”
Yesterday, I was doing the aforementioned pregame reliever routine of trying to look good with out really doing anything baseball-y when two boys approached me. I pretended I was looking into the stands for my mythical hot girlfriend when they started up.
“Mr. Hayhurst! Number 37, 37, Hayhurst . . .”
The combination approach; they have done this before.
I gave my jersey a quick two-handed wipe down to make sure the logo looked sharp. I adjusted my belt, puffed out my chest and walked over to the boys John Wayne style. I looked right into their bright, youthful faces and in my best 1950’™s cartoon superhero voice said, “Hello boys, what can I do for you?”
They thrust a ball and a pen into my face. No, “Can you sign this?” No, “please.” No nothing. Just a pen and a ball dangling inches from my nose.
So commonplace is the practice of pregame signatures that really, no one has to explain the process. If you approach a player with a pen and a ball, everyone who has ever heard a tale of American baseball knows what is going on.
I looked at the boys, smiled a cheesy grin, and took the ball and pen.
I clicked the pen, and was about to inscribe the ball with my name when they said,”Oh no, we don’™t want your autograph Mr. 37.”
I looked up dumbfounded. “Well, may I ask why you gave me this pen and ball if you don’™t want my autograph?”
“We want you to go get Chase Headley’™s autograph for us. Can you?”
“You uh . . . You what?”
“We just want his autograph, so go get his for us.”
“Um, well, we don’™t really uh . . . I mean, he’™s busy getting ready for the game right now, and uh . . .You sure you don’™t want me to sign this for you?”
With out the slightest bit of hesitation they responded, in unison, “We’™re sure. Can’™t you get his autograph for us?”
“Well, we don’™t really do that. I mean, it’™s his choice, and he’™s busy getting ready. I think he’™d be really flattered, and it would be better if you asked him yourselves.”
With that, I handed them back their ball, since they had no use for me.
They looked at each other, faces full of disappointment. Then they looked back at me. Eyes that were formally bright and exuberant had now turned angry and scowling.
“You suck Hayhurst, thanks for nothing!” And away they walked.
What? I what? Why you little . . . I was about to become another negative sports headline when I noticed all the fans who had witnessed this transaction. They were all staring at me, waiting to see how I would react. I smiled sheepishly, took a deep breath and captured my pseudo superhero voice.
“Ha, Ha, those silly rapscallions!” I declared. “No, thank YOU boys! Stay in school!”
The fans resumed talking and calling for other players but I decided I was done signing autographs.
Sigh, just another day in the life of a non-prospect.
If you have any questions or comments for Dirk, please e-mail him @ email@example.com