Padres’ righthander Dirk Hayhurst struck a chord with his diary on signing autographs a few weeks ago, appearing on XM Radio and doing numerous other interviews he’d never anticipated when he began writing for Baseball America in the spring.
The 26-year-old is currently gearing up for the Texas League playoffs with Double-A San Antonio, where he finished the year 4-1, 3.19 in 55 innings for the Missions.
In his final entry of the season, the Kent State product reflects on the hopes and dreams of plugging it out on a daily basis in his fifth season in the minor leagues.
A teammate and I spent the other day watching movies.
It was our last off day of the season, and we decided it would be nice to spend all of it in an air-conditioned theater watching the latest and greatest Hollywood had to offer.
It was time well spent, because in those fleeting hours of movie magic, I could lose myself completely in some other world. I could forget about the grind for a while and dream I was some place else. A mental vacation.
After back-to-back-to-back films, we went to dinner. Over burritos, we struck up a conversation about the reality of life as a baseball player. It was a time of reflection.
During this year alone I have witnessed at least a dozen friends get released between spring training and now.
I’ve watched guys get sent up, get sent down, and get sent home.
It’s been a long summer.
Now it’s September and the season is coming to a close. We’re in the playoffs, which is always a lot of fun. We have been through many ups and downs, and now we are finally in striking distance of something tangible. Something worthy of a 140-game grind. Something that makes the hardships of a season worth it: A championship.
Some things are just that easy, others, however, are complicated.
This is my fifth year of pro ball, my fifth year of slugging it out in the minors. It’s my friend’s seventh. Seven years of chasing, but not catching, the dream of big league ball.
Will this be me in two years? This realization forces tough questions that scream at me when things are going bad but whisper quietly when things are going good. Questions like: How much longer should I do this? Can I really make it? Is this job worth it?
Some tell me they are envious of this job. They say they’d give anything to do it. Even for just a chance at it. Anything?
A young father once told me he would give anything to do this job, in fact, he had a chance to but, alas, “My daughter was born, and she screwed up everything.”
Your first-born screwed up your dreams of being a minor leaguer? I am sorry to hear that; sorry for your daughter’s sake. He honestly felt he made the wrong choice.
I want to play in the big leagues. I work hard every day to give myself a chance, a chance that may never happen. But if it did, would it be the tangible result that made this five-year grind worth it?
Would the void from all the friends left behind be filled if I make it?
Would I forget about the great times I missed with loved ones? Would all the days I wanted to quit and toughed it out, all the days on a tour bus, all the days in a hotel room in some nameless, faceless town be justified when I toe the rubber of a big league diamond?
Would it be worth trading the birth of my precious daughter for?
I can’t answer those questions. Each dream comes with a different price for those who chase them. How can anyone know if their dream is worth the price they’ll pay to have it?
If I am honest, the closest I come to toeing the rubber of a big league mound may be in my imagination. But in my imagination, it’s a great moment.
A wonderful vision that pushes me on.
Yet, when it does happen, if it does happen and it turns out to be the amazing experience I hope it to be, I know it won’t erase the sacrifices I have made to achieve it.
People ask, “When are you going to make it to the big leagues?”
I have no idea. Maybe next year, maybe never, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of trying to get there for anything. The choices I’ve made to get here have made me the man I am today. The pain, joy, confusion and certainty–all of it.
I will never forget the people baseball has introduced me to or forced me to leave behind. The experiences I have had because of it or been asked to miss out on. I’ll never forget the teammates I’ve seen come and go or the kind people who have helped along the way.
I won’t forget the sacrifices I have made to be where I am, and I won’t pretend to think my first big league game will somehow make sense of them all. I will just enjoy that moment. I will cherish and savor it because it came at a price.
Like all dreams do.
Until then, I’ll continue to believe there are some things worth enduring for. Some things worth braving the pain and confusion of life for. Those are the dreams that guide our choices, and whether they are of big league glory, or a beautiful smile stretched across your child’s face, they are worth the sacrifice.
You can reach Dirk at firstname.lastname@example.org.