Jerry Hairston Jr. Can Be Measured by the Size of His Heart

By Bush, Joe | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 4, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Jerry Hairston Jr. Can Be Measured by the Size of His Heart

Bush, Joe, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)

Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer

Sometimes you have to look hard to see a resemblance between father and son. Sometimes, you just have to listen.

Former White Sox player Jerry Hairston and his oldest son, also named Jerry, don't look too much alike. They're the same size, however, and that's important.

When that size - 5-foot-10, 170 to 180 pounds - becomes a conversation piece, as it was for Jerry Sr., and as it has been for 21-year-old Jerry Jr., the bond between the men is unmistakable.

A few days before the major-league amateur draft, which began Tuesday and runs through today, a visitor to the Hairston's Naperville home tells them of Baseball America's analysis of young Jerry, who just finished his sophomore season at Southern Illinois University.

In tabbing Hairston as the best college prospect in Illinois, it read in part:

Hairston has no major weaknesses, but isn't fast enough to be a middle infielder or big enough to play on a corner. If he were faster, he'd be a high pick.

All the pair hears is big enough. Both men scoff. Both predict the perceived slight will only strengthen Jerry Jr.'s resolve. Both tell stories of everyone's underestimation of their skills based on their dimensions.

"That makes me mad," says the elder Hairston, who hit .258 in his 14-year career, and led the American League in pinch hits in 1983, '84 and '85.

"They told me I'd never make it beyond (Class AA) ball. I liked it when they were talking about me. Now, it's my son."

"I could care less what they think," the younger Jerry says. "I've been told that all my life."

Thus far, Jerry Jr. has answered the skeptics with dominance. He hit .510 in his junior season at Naperville North, but injuries hampered his senior-season numbers.

He was drafted in the 42nd round, considered the low selection an insult, and signed with SIU.

Playing out of position at third base, Hairston won the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honor, then hit .280 in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer.

This spring, back at shortstop for most of the season, Jerry led the Salukis with a .370 batting average. Old enough now to be drafted again, he hopes to become the sixth member of the Hairston family to sign a professional baseball contract.

No, check that. Jerry Hairston Jr. wants to be the fourth Hairston to play in the major leagues.

"He's not content with getting the chance to play pro ball," Salukis coach Dan Callahan says. "He's more driven than that, he's more hungry than that. He's not going to rest until he plays in the big leagues."

Callahan says he's heard that Hairston could be picked as high as the third round - where his father was selected out of high school by the White Sox in 1970 - or as low as the 10th.

Jerry Jr. says he's heard as high as the second round and as low as the seventh. He holds a bat as he says "I've been ready since I was two."

* * *

If any kids were born to play pro baseball, it's Jerry Jr. and his brothers Justin - now playing at Triton Junior College - and Scott, a sophomore shortstop at Naperville North.

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