NEWS

Dirk Hayhurst: Home runs aren’t the only things that get crushed

Dirk Hayhurst

We saw things differently, partially because we were on different sides of the country, mainly because bad news has a way of hitting harder depending on where you take the punch.

She stood on her front porch in a pair of fluffy slippers surveying the wreckage. I was laying in a posh, big-league hotel bed I didn’t feel like getting out of. 

Mom called to tell of her latest epiphany. Her son making it to the bigs already would serve as an effective bragging point, the subject of many heavy handed conversation transitions for the rest of her life. Now the pot was even sweeter. She had woken to “SportsCenter” highlights involving her darling boy.

Her next round of boastful phone calls to beauty parlor girlfriends would involve, “My son, you know -- the big leaguer -- was on ESPN the other day. ...” From her perspective, this was quite the stroke of good fortune.

On my end, the chips were down. I’ve heard players say they’ll feel like they’ve made it when they see themselves on ESPN. I’m not sure “made it” was the emotion I felt as my mother gleefully described replay after replay of Manny Ramirez turning my down and away into back and gone.

“You looked so good out there,” she said, like she was convincing me acne made me sexier. “I was so proud. I knew how much it meant to you to be on ESPN.”

She ended on an expectant note, as if I might uncork champagne at the news.

I rolled over and slammed a pillow over my head. It was my hope I would wake up and remember nothing about the previous night. You have to have a short memory in baseball, and a good night’s sleep is a fine reset button.

Get up the next day, eat a good breakfast, read news about some far-away country, then go to the park with a clean slate. Or you can wake up to your mother rehashing your latest nationally televised embarrassment.

Welcome to the big leagues.

“I’m sorry you’re so upset about it. I was hoping you’d be excited,” she said after a long pause from my end. She knows me, and when I’m don’t talk for long periods it means I don’t exactly feel like singing along with John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.”

“Mom, think about what you’re asking me to be excited about. I didn’t make the news for rescuing a little old lady. I have an ERA of 10 in the bigs, I got the loss and Ramirez, of all people, hit a home run off me. It’s plastered all over the media.”

Keeping steady pace with what not to say, she blurted, “Yes, but think of how many people would die for the opportunity to give up a home run to Manny Rameriz?” 

“Look, it’s not like we’re talking about me eating all my broccoli because people in India would die to have it. This is my job. When I don’t produce, this is the consequence.”

I was pouting, I admit, but I was talking to my mommy after all. I heard her sigh and transfer the phone from one ear the other. She switched gears like a student driver.

“Well, your car was crushed by a tree last night,” she said, dry as toast.

“WHAT?”

“Yeah, we had a big wind storm last night, and it knocked a tree onto your car.”

“Wait, you’re serious?”

“Yes. Your car is crushed.”

“Define crushed.”

“You know what a hotdog bun looks like around a hotdog? Well, your car looks like that around the tree that fell on it.”

I sat up in bed, mouth open. As if I didn’t feel bad enough already, now my car was totaled along with my ERA. I looked at the phone like it was some demonically possessed object.

Maybe it wasn’t my phone. Maybe it wasn’t my mother.

I slowly placed the receiver back to my ear and said, “Tell me. After how bad I told you I’m feeling today, what made you think it was a good time to break that news to me?”

In a voice of cheerful oblivion came: “I thought it would help you take your mind of last night’s game.”

Click.

Dirk Hayhurst, a former Kent State University standout, is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.