Hairston has no regrets on his MLB career
When Jerry Hairston Jr. flew into Chicago last weekend with the rest of the Washington Nationals, he imported a priceless possession:
The World Series ring he earned as a member of the 2009 New York Yankees.
"It's in the city somewhere," Hairston said Friday. "I won't tell you where it's at, but it's here. My buddies forced me to bring it this time. They always get mad at me because I don't."
The 1995 Naperville North graduate wanted a ring so badly for so long -- he never made the playoffs until 2009 -- he took a red-eye flight from San Diego to New York on an off-day in April 2010 to be a part of the ceremony at Yankee Stadium.
For the 35-year-old Hairston, the ring served as tangible proof he achieved the lofty goal he set while in high school.
As he told the Daily Herald in 1995 after spurning the Baltimore Orioles (which picked him in the 42nd round of the draft) in order to sign with Southern Illinois:
"You gotta understand, I'm in a family where every male was drafted, and drafted high," Hairston said. "My goal is to play in the big leagues -- not just play in the big leagues, but be a good player.
"I felt I should have went higher, but I didn't. Sometimes you feel like your ability is better than what some people perceive. I'll definitely use it as motivation."
A mere three years and three months later, Hairston made his major-league debut with the Orioles (they re-drafted him in the 11th round in 1997).
Heading into Washington's game Monday night, Hairston owns 978 career hits in 1,214 games.
Those numbers dwarf those produced by his father, Jerry, who appeared in nearly all of his 859 games for the White Sox.
Oddly, their lifetime batting averages are less than a point apart. The elder Hairston finished his career at .25780 while Jerry Jr., entered Monday's game at .25723.
This marks his 14th year in the big leagues, though he has appeared in more than 100 games just six times.
"I look at it this way," Hairston said. "I wish I didn't get hurt so much, but I could have gotten hurt and never came back from a couple of those injuries.
"I've been fortunate to come back and find a niche later in my career of being able to play everywhere. I've won a World Series. It's been a really good career. I've really enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll get to play maybe a couple more years and on to something else."
What might that something else entail? Perhaps he'll mentor his 5-year-old son, Jackson, if he shoots to become the fourth generation of the Hairston family to reach the majors.
Jerry's grandfather, Sam, managed 2 hits in 5 at-bats for the Sox in 1951. His uncle, John, delivered 1 hit in 4 tries for the 1969 Cubs. His younger brother, Scott, has appeared in 609 games over the last eight seasons and plays semi-regularly for the Mets.
"My son loves the game of baseball," Hairston said. "I don't force it on him. I let him play and enjoy it. He loves all sports. He loves basketball. I already have Derrick Rose tapes for him to see how to play the point."
When Hairston watches his son cruise around the Nationals clubhouse like he owns the joint, it reminds him of all the years he romped around Comiskey Park.
"Like I tell (Jackson), he's my best friend," Hairston said. "I'm his father first, but he's my right-hand man. He loves being around Dad and the guys around here get a kick out of him.
"He tries to sneak a couple things by me. I tell him all the time: 'I was you 30 years ago. So whatever you try, I've tried it two or three times already.'"
Because Hairston has been around the game so long, it seems almost a cinch he'll stay in baseball after his retirement.
He looked like a natural in front of the camera while doing off-season work for the MLB Network, but others are convinced he shouldn't leave the field.
"The managers I've played for have really urged me to manage," Hairston said. "Dusty Baker, Bud Black, even Jim Riggleman (on Thursday) said, 'You need to consider managing.'"
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who signed Hairston as much for his clubhouse presence as his versatility, thinks Hairston has even more options in the near future.
"He'll follow the lines of his dad and grandfather, who were terrific baseball guys," Rizzo said. "He's got a great baseball IQ. Jerry can do whatever he wants.
"If he wants to be a manager, if he wants to be a GM, he's totally suited for any occupation he wants in this game."