Column by Dirk Hayhurst, who spent the off-season working at a homeless shelter.
Editors note: Dirk Hayhurst, 26, is a 1999 graduate of Canton South High
School. The San Diego Padres selected the right-handed pitcher in the eighth
round of the 2003 draft out of Kent State University. The 6-foot-3,
200-pound Hayhurst has a 2-0 record with a 2.61 ERA with the San Antonio
Missions of the Class AA Texas League. He writes a diary for Baseball
I have played professional baseball for the last five years. I love my job,
and things are going great.
But I have a confession to make. An apology of sorts. This job in and of
itself is not very important. We don't cure sick people or pass laws or
teach youth. We play a game.
However, sports figures, even little ones like me, are looked at as role
models in our society. For better or worse, we have a public voice. Whether
we deserve it or not - we don't - is irrelevant.
Here is what I want to apologize for: I have not used that public voice to
make the world around me a better place.
It's not like I've been out fighting dogs or selling drugs. It's just I
haven't really done anything. I sit back and continue to believe that the
world revolves around me, which is easy to do when people beg for your
autograph, even for an article of clothing you've touched. But it's a lie.
I am nothing special.
VISITING A DIFFERENT WORLD
This offseason, I decided to work at a homeless shelter. It wasn't a
publicity stunt, and I'm not revealing this to make myself look golden. I
tried to talk myself out of it. I had thoughts like, "I can't do this
because I am not one of those volunteer kinda people - they are the ones
that excel at this."
Then I thought, "I would help these folks out a lot more if I just made it
to the big leagues and bought them all houses. I need to focus on me."
In the back of my mind I would always think, "Besides, you only become
homeless in America if you make bad choices so they must deserve it right?"
Pathetic? Yes. Misguided? Sure. But I thought that way.
Then I went. This is what I learned: That people in those shelters had more
in common with me then I could have imagined. They are marginalized people.
Folks the world has forgotten. Pushed out of the norms of our society and
stereotyped as something they are not. They would tell me stories of their
hardships: Medical bills, family tragedy, layoffs, cutbacks, abuse, fires.
Not the "bad choices" I had envisioned. Just heart-breaking reality.
How is this like pro baseball? Well, those people in that shelter are real.
Just like I am a real person. I play a high-profile sport, and they live a
low-profile life, but we are still people - equally valuable and equally
Each of us lives in a culture that makes us into something we are not. I am
not great because I wear a costume for a living or because I am blessed with
a strong throwing arm. They are not bad people because life has dealt them a
cruel hand. We are the same.
When I first went into that shelter, I brought minor league baseball cards.
I was going to sign them and hand them out because most people love this. I
thought it would be great.
Then, as I stared into the eyes of a man whose shoes were soaked from the
winter slush, whose face was worn from life's hardships and shoulders heavy
from carrying all his earthly possessions, it dawned on me: What is my
signature on a piece of cardboard going to do for this man?
Do I really want to live in a world where my autograph can make people line
up to receive it, but a man's life can be pushed aside and forgotten?
I thought I was going to be a great person for spending time with those
marginalized people. Going into it, I really did believe I was better then
they were. After all, I was one of our culture's golden boys. But this is
before I knew the truth.
If you asked, I'd say all life is equal. Most of us would. But you need
only look at the world to see we don't act that way. Those people gave me
more than I ever could've given them. They broke the bubble of my
selfishness and helped me see the misappropriation of importance our culture
places on titles and stations.
The sports editor of this paper told me to mention I was a pro baseball
player because people will listen to me. So be it. I am a pro baseball
player, but there is nothing important about me that is not also important
We are the same. We are people and need one another. Our voices should have
the same power. We don't have to be big league baseball players to save the
world, because big league or not, we all have hearts and the ability to act,
love, show kindness, humility and mercy.
Those things know no class distinction, nor should we.
To see a video of Dirk Hayhurst demonstrating the power of the wind at a
minor league game, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_7Dj7t58vQ