When the National League's 2010 schedule was published last winter, Jerry Hairston Jr. looked it over with particular interest in his new team, the San Diego Padres, and his old team, the New York Yankees.
06/10/2010 11:49 AM ET
Hairston Jr. went the distance for ring
Infielder traveled from San Diego to NY to attend ceremony
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
The Padres' home opener was a day game against Atlanta. They were off the next day, the day the Yankees would receive their World Series rings in New York. San Diego's next game was at night.
"Hmm," Hairston thought. "The timing works."
What if he got on an airplane after the day game, flew to New York, got his ring and then flew back to San Diego in time for the next night's game? A little crazy, huh?
"I thought about not doing it," Hairston said. "It's a long trip."
Then he got into a conversation with ex-Major Leaguer Dave Roberts, who works in the Padres' front office. In 2005, Roberts was playing for the Padres a year after he helped the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. When the Sox got their rings in Fenway Park, Roberts was there.
"He convinced me to do it," Hairston said. "He said, 'If you don't do it, you'll regret it the rest of your life.' I didn't want to be on my couch when they were getting the rings. I didn't want to be 75 some day and regret not going when I had a chance."
And so, after the Padres' home opener, Hairston got on a red-eye flight from San Diego to New York, arrived at 6 a.m., checked into a hotel for a couple of hours and was on the field at Yankee Stadium for the ring ceremony. That night, he was back on a plane headed in the other direction, to rejoin the Padres, returning to San Diego by 10 p.m.
It was a 6,000-mile round trip in less than 24 hours and well worth the effort, he said.
"You can get your World Series ring in a FedEx envelope or standing on the field at Yankee Stadium, alongside the guys you won it with," he said. "Which would you choose?"
His old teammates were stunned to see Hairston -- stunned and happy because the utility man played an important role in their success last year. "There were a lot of hugs," he said.
After coming over from Cincinnati in a midseason trade, Hairston appeared in 45 games with the Yankees and contributed some key hits. When New York reached the playoffs, it was his first chance at the postseason in his 12th season. He was one of 14 active Major Leaguers who had played 1,000 games without reaching the postseason. His first postseason hit, a 13th-inning single in Game 2 of the ALCS, touched off a winning rally against Anaheim.
So, that World Series victory was hardly routine for him.
"There a lot of guys who never won one," Hairston said. "I am a third generation Major Leaguer, and I'm the first in my family to win one. It was special. I know how hard it is to win one. I appreciate it. I am thankful I had the opportunity. I hope it's not once in a lifetime.
"You talk to guys like Derek [Jeter] and Jorge [Posada]. Once they won their first, once they had that taste, they want to win it over and over again."
Knowing that the Yankees have won more World Series than any other team, Hairston considered rejoining them this season. "We talked," he said. "But I wanted to play the infield again. They already have a pretty good shortstop named Jeter, you know."
So Hairston signed with the Padres, reunited with his brother, Scott, an outfielder. Together, they've helped San Diego unexpectedly put itself into contention in the NL West. He likes this team and its chances and every so often, he reminds his teammates of the possibilities by showing them his World Series ring.
"I want to win one of them here," he said.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.