Call it a family affair in San Diego
Scott and Jerry Hairston are the latest set of brothers to unite in a Padres uniform
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Millions of brothers have grown up pitching to each other in the backyard with the shared goal of playing in the big leagues. The San Diego Padres have made that dream a reality several times -- in a much bigger backyard.
Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr. were teammates in the late 1980s, and Tony and Chris Gwynn played together for the Padres' NL West title team in 1996. In recent years, Trevor and Glenn Hoffman (a Padres coach), Brian and Marcus Giles and Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez have worn the team's uniform and perpetuated the tradition.
If the Padres emphasized fraternal bonding any more than this, they might have to change their name to Los Hermanos.
"Being the youngest in my family, I have to thank my older brothers so much for everything they taught me," Adrian Gonzalez said. "When Edgar got to the big leagues, it was the biggest thing in the world for me. Being able to play with him was icing on the cake."
The union officially ended in January when Edgar signed with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Central League, prompting the Padres to move on to a different gene pool.
The Padres' newest brother act came on board in a frenetic two-day span in mid-January. San Diego general manager Jed Hoyer acquired Scott from the A's as part of a four-player trade that sent third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to Oakland. Two days later, Jerry signed a one-year, $2.125 million deal with San Diego as a free agent.
The Hairstons will be counted on to contribute to a San Diego team that is limited financially but showed promise with a 39-35 record after the All-Star break last year. Scott, 29, hit 10 homers and slugged .533 in 56 games with the Padres last season before former GM Kevin Towers sent him to Oakland as part of a five-player trade. He has a reputation for hammering fastballs.
Jerry, 33, singled and scored the winning run for the Yankees in the 13th inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Angels. He's known for his versatility; in 12 seasons with the Orioles, Cubs, Rangers, Reds and Yankees, he has done everything but pitch and catch.
"You can put him anywhere and feel good about it. That's what I like," said Padres manager Bud Black. "You don't lose anything no matter where you play him."
The Hairstons, like the Bells and Boones, are third-generation big leaguers. Their grandfather, Sam, was a catcher for the Birmingham Barons in the Negro Leagues and played briefly for the Chicago White Sox in 1951. Sam's son, Jerry Sr., played 14 seasons in the majors with the White Sox and Pirates, and his boys spent lots of time in the Comiskey Park home clubhouse watching Carlton Fisk, Ozzie Guillen, Greg Luzinski and Harold Baines prepare for games.
When Jerry was an elementary schooler, Baines was one of his favorite Chicago players.
"Lo and behold, I get to Baltimore all those years later and I wind up hitting behind him in the lineup," Jerry said. "Eric Davis and Cal Ripken gave him a nice little ribbing. They'd say, 'You've got your old batboy hitting behind you now.'"
The athletic pursuits in the Hairston household weren't limited to baseball. Jerry played basketball in the same Chicago suburban league as current Cleveland Cavaliers guard Anthony Parker, and showed enough promise as a point guard to attract interest from Evansville, Portland State and some other mid-major schools. But he opted to play baseball at Southern Illinois, and the Orioles picked him in the 11th round of the 1997 draft.
Scott had the potential to be a spleen-crushing defensive back in football, but he channeled his energies into baseball. He played junior college ball with Ian Kinsler and Rich Harden at Central Arizona College, and the Diamondbacks selected him in the third round of the 2001 draft.
In contrast to some brother acts, the Hairstons didn't have a warm and fuzzy rapport as youngsters. Jerry spent more time hanging out with his other brother, Justin, who was one year younger, and little Scott was regarded as a bit of an annoyance.
"When there was a pickup basketball game, they would never invite me to play," Scott said. "I always believed I would be better in athletics if I played with the older kids. But they didn't like that too much.
"They always called me the tagalong. I guess that happens to a lot of kids growing up. I didn't like being left behind. That really irritated me. A lot of times, I'd have to practice by myself."
Nevertheless, a little encouragement could go a long way. Jerry is chatty and sociable, and Scott is quiet and intense. But they share a competitive streak on the field.
"I remember when he was playing Little League and he had a couple of rough at-bats," Jerry said. "I pulled him aside and said, 'I can't strike you out, and I'm better than this guy on the mound. I'm 12 and you're 8, and you've got another 8-year-old on the mound. You mean to tell me he's better than me?'"
The Hairstons got a glimpse of what might be in store in 2009, when they played together for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Their mother, Esperanza, was born in Mexico, and Jerry Sr. and Esperanza were married in the town of Hermosillo in January 1974.
But the road to togetherness in San Diego was fraught with twists and turns. After some ups and downs in Arizona, Scott thought he had found stability and happiness with the Padres. He was devastated when San Diego traded him to Oakland in July.
All the while, Scott told Jerry that Petco Park was the closest thing to nirvana on a baseball field.
"He was always leaning towards coming to the Padres," Scott said, "but I influenced him a lot when we talked on the phone. I told him, 'If you have an opportunity to play for the Padres -- if they want you -- you'd love it. It's a great stadium, a great city, and the coaching staff is awesome.' Every time we talked, I told him that."
Lo and behold, it happened in January. Scott was euphoric when the Padres reacquired him from Oakland, and Jerry, who had attracted interest from Cleveland and the Yankees among other teams, soon joined the fold.
The Padres have David Eckstein at second base, Everth Cabrera at short and Chase Headley at third, but Jerry will stay busy in a super-utility role. As for Scott, he's part of a four-man outfield rotation with Kyle Blanks, Will Venable and Tony Gwynn Jr.
Once the Hairston brothers get to San Diego, they'll take part in another great American tradition: Carpooling. They live just a few minutes from each other, so they'll have plenty of time to talk baseball and life on their way to and from Petco.
"As Opening Day comes, I think that's when it will really hit us," Scott said. "I have two sons of my own, so this could give them hope one day. They'll be thinking, 'Daddy played with Uncle Jerry, so it would be nice to play together, too.' This will give them a little motivation."
It's far too soon to tell whether Scott's young sons Landon and Dallas have the stuff to be major leaguers. But if they do grow up to play in the big leagues one day, we have a pretty good idea where it will be.
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