Dirk Hayhurst: For every dream there is a sacrifice

Dirk Hayhurst

Editors note: Minor league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, 26, is a 1999 graduate of Canton South High School. The San Diego Padres selected the right-hander in the eighth round of the 2003 draft out of Kent State University. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Hayhurst has a 3-1 record with one save and a 3.64 ERA in 24 games with the San Antonio Missions of the Class AA Texas League.

A teammate and I spent the other day watching movies.

It was our off day, and we decided it would be nice to spend the day in an air conditioned theater watching the latest and greatest Hollywood had to offer.

It was day well spent. In those fleeting hours of movie magic, I could lose myself completely in some other world. I could forget about baseball and dream I was someplace else. A mental vacation.

After back-to-back-to-back films, we went to dinner. Over burritos, we began talking about life and baseball. It was time of reflection.

During this year alone I have witnessed at least a dozen friends get released. I’ve watched guys get sent up, sent down and sent home. I’ve been on the receiving end of my own demoralizing setbacks. It’s been a long summer.

It’s August, and the season is ending. We’re in the playoff hunt. We have been through many ups and downs, and now we are in striking distance of something tangible. Something worthy of a 140-game grind. Something that makes the hardships of a season worth it: A championship. Some things are just that easy. Others, however, are complicated.

This is my fifth year of pro ball, my fifth year of slugging it out in the

minors. It’s my friend’s seventh. Seven years of chasing -- but not catching -- the dream of big league ball.

Will this be me in two years? This realization forces tough questions that scream at me when things are going bad but whisper quietly when things are going good. Questions like: How much longer should I do this? Can I really make it? Is this job worth it?

Some tell me they are envious about this job. They say they’d give anything to do it. Anything? A father once told me he would give anything to do this.

In fact, he had a chance to but, alas, “My daughter was born, and she

screwed up everything.”

Your first-born screwed up your dreams of being a minor leaguer? I am sorry to hear that, sorry for your daughter’s sake. He honestly felt he made the wrong choice.

I want to play in the big leagues. I work hard every day to give myself a chance, a chance that may never happen. But if it did, would it be the tangible result that made this five-year grind worth it?

Would the void from all the friends left behind be filled if I make it?

Would I forget about the great times I missed with loved ones? Would all the days I wanted to quit and toughed it out, all the days on a tour bus and in a hotel room in some nameless, faceless town be justified when I toe the rubber of a big-league diamond?

Would it be worth trading the life of my precious daughter?

I can’t answer those questions. Each dream comes with a different price for those who chase it. How can anyone know if their dream is worth the price they’ll pay to have it?

If I am honest, the closest I come to toeing the rubber of a big-league mound may be in my imagination. But in my imagination, it’s a wonderful vision that pushes me on.

Yet, when it does happen, if it does happen and it turns out to be the amazing experience I hope it to be, I know it won’t erase the sacrifices I have made to achieve it.

People ask, “When are you going to make it into the big leagues?”

I have no idea. Maybe next year, maybe never, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of trying to get there for anything. The choices I’ve made to get here have made me the man I am. The pain, joy, confusion and certainty -- all of it.

I will never forget the people baseball has introduced me to or forced me to leave behind. The experiences I have had because of it or been asked to miss out on. I’ll never forget the teammates I’ve seen come and go or the kind people who have helped along the way.

I won’t forget the sacrifices I have made to be where I am, and I won’t pretend to think my first big league game will somehow make sense of them all. I will just enjoy, cherish and savor it because it came at a price.

Like all dreams do.

Until that moment, I’ll continue to believe there are some things worth sacrificing for. Some things worth braving the pain and confusion of life for. Those are the dreams that guide our choices. Whether they are of big league glory, or a beautiful smile stretched across your child’s face, they are worth the sacrifice.