Title: Jerry Hairston Jr. can be measured by the size of his heart.(Sports)
Date: June 4, 1997 Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Author: Bush, JoeByline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Sometimes you have to look hard to see a resemblance between father and son. Sometimes, you just have to listen.
Former White Sox player Jerry Hairston and his oldest son, also named Jerry, don't look too much alike. They're the same size, however, and that's important.
When that size - 5-foot-10, 170 to 180 pounds - becomes a conversation piece, as it was for Jerry Sr., and as it has been for 21-year-old Jerry Jr., the bond between the men is unmistakable.
A few days before the major-league amateur draft, which began Tuesday and runs through today, a visitor to the Hairston's Naperville home tells them of Baseball America's analysis of young Jerry, who just finished his sophomore season at Southern Illinois University.
In tabbing Hairston as the best college prospect in Illinois, it read in part:
Hairston has no major weaknesses, but isn't fast enough to be a middle infielder or big enough to play on a corner. If he were faster, he'd be a high pick.
All the pair hears is big enough. Both men scoff. Both predict the perceived slight will only strengthen Jerry Jr.'s resolve. Both tell stories of everyone's underestimation of their skills based on their dimensions.
"That makes me mad," says the elder Hairston, who hit .258 in his 14-year career, and led the American League in pinch hits in 1983, '84 and '85.
"They told me I'd never make it beyond (Class AA) ball. I liked it when they were talking about me. Now, it's my son."
"I could care less what they think," the younger Jerry says. "I've been told that all my life."
Thus far, Jerry Jr. has answered the skeptics with dominance. He hit .510 in his junior season at Naperville North, but injuries hampered his senior-season numbers.
He was drafted in the 42nd round, considered the low selection an insult, and signed with SIU.
Playing out of position at third base, Hairston won the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honor, then hit .280 in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer.
This spring, back at shortstop for most of the season, Jerry led the Salukis with a .370 batting average. Old enough now to be drafted again, he hopes to become the sixth member of the Hairston family to sign a professional baseball contract.
No, check that. Jerry Hairston Jr. wants to be the fourth Hairston to play in the major leagues.
"He's not content with getting the chance to play pro ball," Salukis coach Dan Callahan says. "He's more driven than that, he's more hungry than that. He's not going to rest until he plays in the big leagues."
Callahan says he's heard that Hairston could be picked as high as the third round - where his father was selected out of high school by the White Sox in 1970 - or as low as the 10th.
Jerry Jr. says he's heard as high as the second round and as low as the seventh. He holds a bat as he says "I've been ready since I was two."
* * *
If any kids were born to play pro baseball, it's Jerry Jr. and his brothers Justin - now playing at Triton Junior College - and Scott, a sophomore shortstop at Naperville North.
This family tree should be made into bats someday:
Grandpa Sam Hairston played all of his prime in the Negro Leagues before the White Sox made him the franchise's first African-American signee. He was 31 when he played his only season in the majors.
Sam's brother Jack also signed with the White Sox, but finished in the minors. We know about Sam's son Jerry. Jerry's older brother John was called up by the Cubs in 1969, while Sam Jr. played on one of the White Sox rookie-league teams in 1966.
John's sons have done well, too. John Louis played minor-league ball, while Jeff is in the New York Yankees' system and Jason, who has been playing at Washington State University, is expecting a call from a major-league team today or tomorrow as well.
There's no worry about Jerry Jr. not respecting the past, and what pioneers like Sam did for today's African-American ballplayer. The past is part of him.
Sam is 77 and never has needed much prodding to talk about his days and contemporaries - guys like Satchel Paige and Double-Duty Radcliffe.
"I'm really fortunate to hear it from him instead of reading it in a book," Jerry Jr. says.
The game's black history is not all Jerry Jr. has had help with. Growing up with a major-league dad has its perks, such as getting a Comiskey Park dugout feel for not only the game, but the major-league lifestyle.
"That's another advantage he has," Jerry Sr. says. "He knows what he's getting into."
Knowing Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura like most kids know their grade-school teachers can help a kid learn the fundamentals, but science has yet to prove that baseball savvy can't be passed on by blood.
"Instinctively, he'll do things that other infielders won't do," Callahan says. "He'll take better routes to the ball, he'll play hitters better. He knows the game better than anybody I've ever coached."
Despite the scouting reports knocking Jerry Jr.'s speed, Callahan says he's clocked him to first base in 4.2 seconds, about the major-league average.
He probably won't be a big-league shortstop, Callahan says, but could play at second or be a utility guy.
One thing's for sure, Hairston has already made believers of those who doubted him after high school.
Callahan remembers Hairston turning around on a 93-mph fastball on Salukis Scout Day in the fall of 1995. Scout Day is an early chance for draft-eligible juniors and seniors to display their wares to talent seekers, and Callahan remembers scouts' reactions to Hairston's bat speed.
"He was still somewhat bitter as a freshman," Callahan says. "He was gonna prove to some people they were wrong. It was interesting to hear how many scouts admitted that ability-wise they misread him."
There's a blade in each of Hairston's eyes when he promises he'll prove more people wrong. Jerry Sr. had them once, too, and thinks his stature goaded pitchers into thinking they could overpower him.
"I used that as an advantage," he said. "If I got the fastball, I didn't miss it. I didn't mind being a little guy."
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COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
COPYRIGHT 2009 Paddock Publications
This document provided by HighBeam Research at http://www.highbeam.com