Dirk Hayhurst: Grandma and God, and how they influenced my baseball career

Dirk Hayhurst

A couple days before the home opener, the Beavers held media day, when spring trainee graduates officially become the face of a fresh minor league season. We got our pictures taken, sound bytes done, intro music selected, etc. ...

We were asked background questions, stuff that makes for good program reading. One question was the old standard: “Who has played a major influence in your baseball career?” Since I had rejected the previous question about a pre-game ritual, I thought I’d give them a better answer now.

“My grandmother and God,” I said.

They looked at me as if I had just placed my grandmother on par with The Almighty. Though she’s spent a good deal of her life proselytizing me by concussive strokes of the Bible over my head, I wouldn’t dare place her on the same level as the big G. I told them it was a long story. They said they’d love to hear it.

This story takes place last season, with the Beavers, on a cool Colorado night I’d like to forget.

(Cue flashback effects.)

My mom wasn’t supposed to be there. Nor was grandma or grandpa. Heck, I wasn’t supposed to be there.

My family and I were in Colorado Springs, and I was getting my brains beat in.

Still, it could be worse.

My grandma prays for me when she watches me pitch. Well, thank God she’s only seen me pitch twice, because at the first game she attended, I took a 93 mph line drive to the jewels. I spent two days in the hospital and got an organizational rule named after me, mandating cups be worn by all players when on the field. I wasn’t wearing one, always thinking, “What are the chances a ball hits me (there).”

Now I wear a cup to bed.

After giving up my sixth consecutive hit in Colorado, I wanted to call a timeout and ask Grandma to stop praying. Maybe Grandpa could hold her mouth shut or buy her a beer. I wasn’t on my way to the hospital, but the experience was certainly painful enough.

At some point during the utter obliteration of my ERA, I got a fresh ball from the umpire and took a detour to the mound. I walked  around it, rubbing the new ball. I was trying to negotiate with the scoreboard. Maybe the bulbs were wrong and that nine was really a seven?  I took some deep breaths, tried to slow it all down, and began to wonder how I got into this mess.

Mom was in Colorado, visiting her brother. My grandparents, as they are fond of doing, tagged along. The trip was planned in advance. By a twist of fate, I was called up from Double-A Wichita to lend a hand to the Triple A club. I was excited. My family had not seen me play professionally in three years.

Here I was, right before their eyes, one step below the bigs.

After the seventh hit disappeared into the darkness beyond the scoreboard, which was indeed a nine, I began to wish my family shutout was still in effect.

I was pulled after one-third of an inning, despite hearty cheers from the home crowd. They begged my manager to leave me in. One fan shouted I was their best player. People there are very supportive.

I made my way into the dugout, head up, trying to look tough as though I hadn’t given up seven(ish) runs. Some players patted my shoulder and smacked my rear, but I was too numb to feel it.

I mechanically sipped water while the pitching coach’s voice washed over me like the teacher from Charlie Brown. My only thought was I just had the worst outing of my pro career before my family.

How did this happen? I flew here for this? I glanced at my grandma in the stands. The rest of my family was looking in at me; grandma was mouthing silently with her hands closed like a teepee. I half expected an anvil to fall on me. Exactly which side was she praying to anyway?

After the game, my family waited outside the clubhouse. I grudgingly made my way over, walking like a dog with his tail between his legs. My uncle slapped me on the shoulder and told me I looked good out there, a bad lie.

My mother stood defensively off to the side and said, “I know better then to talk to you after a bad outing.”

My grandmother, innocent and ignorant, said, “Honey, I was praying for you today.”

I looked back and said, “Grandma, I think it’s time we tested your theory on the afterlife.”

P.S. I love you grandma, keep praying.

Dirk Hayhurst is currently assigned to the San Diego Padres Class AAA affiliate Portland Beavers. Check out Dirk’s blog at: