In the Cave, Hairston talks family, Dodgers, versatility
NEW YORK -- Dodgers utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. has worn plenty of uniforms throughout his career, yet he admits it's still difficult to see his 7-year-old son sporting a rival Diamondbacks jersey in his Little League season.
During his visit to the MLB Fan Cave on Wednesday, Hairston -- who has played for nine teams in his 16-year career -- joked about the unfortunate team placement for Jackson, the oldest of his three children. Fortunately, donning a D-backs Little League uniform hasn't yet influenced Jackson's rooting interests when it comes to Major League Baseball.
"He's smart enough to realize his daddy plays for the Dodgers," Hairston said with a smile. "He wanted to play for the Dodgers, but that's just how it is and his Little League team happens to be the Diamondbacks. He loves the game of baseball and loves playing, so I make sure I support him."
Despite the hectic schedule of a Major Leaguer, Hairston makes sure to allot plenty of time to support Jackson, as well as his two daughters -- Kara, 5, and Jessica, 3. For Jackson, playing Little League is just the beginning of what he hopes is a successful journey of following in the long line of Major League footsteps left by the Hairston family.
When Jerry broke into the Majors with the Orioles in 1998, he became the third generation of Hairstons to play Major League baseball. His grandfather, Sam Hairston, played one season with the White Sox in 1951, while his father, Jerry Hairston Sr., played 14 Major League seasons, almost entirely with the White Sox in the 1970s and '80s. His uncle, John Hairston, also appeared in four games with the Cubs in '69.
Then, of course, there's Hairston's younger brother, Scott, signed this offseason by the Cubs, his fifth team in 10 big league seasons.
Though it's not always easy to keep in touch during the season, the brothers spoke on Tuesday. With Scott off to a slow start, hitting just .100 (2-for-20) over 13 games -- only five starts -- in a limited role with the Cubs after belting a career-best 20 homers with the Mets last season, Jerry offered some simple, brotherly words of advice.
"You know, I just told him, 'Listen, it's a long season. You're too good of a hitter. Everybody, I don't care who you are, can't start the season red-hot. Nobody does that for their whole career. So just keep doing what you're doing and things will turn around,' " the elder Hairston brother said. "And I meant that not just for him, but for the Cubs."
In a way, Hairston admitted, his advice also applied to himself and the Dodgers.
While it's not quite the last-place standing the Cubs hold in the National League Central, the Dodgers find themselves in fourth place in the NL West. On top of hovering around .500, Los Angeles is dealing with a rash of injuries, playing without All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez (thumb), as well as starters Zack Greinke (shoulder) and Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery).
"We don't panic. We're not worried," Hairston said. "We just want to focus on playing good baseball, that's all we want to do. Obviously we didn't get off to a fast start, but every team goes through certain things throughout the season and hopefully what we've gone through is just that. Hopefully we get red-hot in the months to come and, more importantly, in the second half."
Hairston is no stranger to dealing with injuries, coming off season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip last September. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is taking a careful approach with Hairston this year, tabbing him as a "four-days-a-week" player, but Hairston still hopes to do his part in helping the Dodgers turn things around.
"It definitely was a tough injury I had last year, having surgery in September, but I really feel good," Hairston said. "I've come a long way; it's been a long process. Now, we've been banged up as a team and guys need to step up, so hopefully I'll be one of those guys in whatever fashion they need me."
For the past three games, the Dodgers have needed Hairston at third base. Prior to making his first three infield starts of the season, however, Hairston had started two games each in right field and left field.
It's certainly nothing new for the 36-year-old, who last season played first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and even started one game as the club's designated hitter. As Hairston put it, he'll play just about anywhere on the diamond as long as "you don't ask me to catch and I definitely can't pitch."
Along with seeing the game unfold from nearly every position on the field, Hairston has seen it unfold in every current Major League stadium. One of the perks of playing for so many teams throughout his career, Hairston said, is having the luxury to visit different cities and ballparks with varying frequencies each year.
Though he pegged Dodger Stadium and the old Yankee Stadium as two of his favorites to ever play in, Hairston mentioned he enjoys traveling to Chicago, New York and Toronto on road trips.
In the end, just as when it comes to playing anywhere the skipper puts him, it's all just part of the Major League experience to Hairston.
"Playing Major League Baseball is a unique experience, so I really appreciate the different cities I get to see and the different stadiums I get to play in," Hairston said. "They're all different in their own ways, so I really do appreciate every stadium.
"You really just have to enjoy the entire experience because it's all so special."