The Sporting Life: CDO grad fights to keep spot in the 'bigs' - Tucson Local Media: Import

The Sporting Life: CDO grad fights to keep spot in the 'bigs'

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Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2005 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:49 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

March 30, 2005 - It was early May of last year when Scott Hairston got the call every minor league prospect dreams about; at long last it was his turn in "the show."

Three days later, wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks jersey, the former Canyon del Oro High School standout dug his heels into the batter's box for the first time at Bank One Ballpark to face Billy Wagner, the flame-throwing closer of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Six pitches later, three of them strikes, he was back on the bench, smarting from his first painful lesson doled out by the bigs.

In 2004, Hairston debuted as a member of the "Baby Backs," a collection of young prospects learning on the hop the fast-paced intricacies of Major League Baseball. Although Wagner's welcome may have been rude, Hairston enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, flashing the skills that made him the ninth player shaken from the Hairston family to play professional baseball.

The Hairston lineage is just the third combo of grandfather (Sammy), father (Jerry Sr.) and son (Jerry Jr. and Scott) to play Major League Baseball.

"I knew right away what I wanted to do for a living," said Hairston, 24, of growing up in a baseball family.

Hairston's father, Jerry, was a member of the Chicago White Sox for 14 seasons, garnering a career .258 batting average in 859 games. As a kid, Hairston's father would bring him to the ballpark where he could mingle with some of his boyhood idols.

"I can remember when I was five years old putting on the uniform for the first time," said Hairston, who would go to Comiskey Park with his older brother, Jerry. "Going out there and running around, it was just a great feeling."

Jerry has played the past seven seasons at second base for the Baltimore Orioles.

Having a father and older brother with big league experience gives Hairston an edge over other rookies trying to break into the pros.

"I can go to them. They've been through everything I'm going through right now," Hairston said.

Hairston didn't need much help from his father or brother. Six at-bats after his

inauspicious debut against Wagner, the 6-foot 190-pound second baseman proved he belonged in the pros with his first major league hit, a long home run off Florida Marlin ace Carl Pavano.

He went on to belt 13 long balls in 2004, racking up 29 RBI and six triples while hitting .248 in 101 games.

Before arriving in Oro Valley and at CDO, Hairston and his two brothers and two sisters were raised just outside of Chicago in Naperville, Ill., the same city where Jerry now plays. Jerry's homecoming comes via one of the most infamous trades of the 2004-05 off-season, when the Orioles dealt the second baseman to the Cubs for slugger Sammy Sosa.

On June 8 last year at Camden Yards in Baltimore, the two brothers met for the first time in an organized game. Both collected two hits with Scott scoring a run and knocking in another in an 8-1 Arizona win.

The Cubs travel to Arizona to open the 2005 season April 4.

Hairston's mother, father and sister still reside in Oro Valley.

Even with family history on his side, Hairston will have to fight for a spot on the Diamondbacks' 24-man roster when the club breaks camp this spring. Heavy off-season moves have revamped the Diamondback lineup, replacing the youngsters with savvy veterans.

"First, he's got to make the team," said Diamondback manager Bob Melvin of Hairston's role with the club in 2005. "But he's really opened my eyes."

Melvin is experimenting with Hairston in the outfield this spring, due to a logjam of middle infielders in the Diamondbacks camp. At CDO and Central Arizona College, Hairston had made a name for himself at second base.

Hairston's talent warrants a spot on the roster, said the first-year coach Melvin. Finding a role on the team, however, is another challenge.

"I see a guy who can hit," Melvin said. "Now we have him in the outfield so he's much more flexible in the positions he can play. That opens up more avenues for him to make the team."

Several times this spring, Hairston could look across the diamond and see former CDO teammates, most notably, pitcher Brian Anderson of the Chicago White Sox and shortstop Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers. Both are expected to start the year in the minors. Anderson was reassigned to the ChiSox's minor league camp on March 22.

Kinsler was also a teammate of Hairston at Central Arizona.

Despite being surrounded by major league talent as a senior at CDO, Hairston's only year with the school in 1999, the Dorados failed to win a state championship. To this day, it's a mystery that continues to elude him.

"It's something I was talking about with Brian (Anderson) the other day," Hairston said. "He said, 'How did we not win state that year?' We're playing in the minor leagues now and we still think about that stuff."

The Diamondbacks will make the final cuts April 1. If Hairston doesn't make the team, he'll stay in Tucson and open the AAA season with the Sidewinders April 7.

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