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Former Orioles INF Jerry Hairston Jr. On how Dusty Baker extended his career

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Heading into the 2008 season, former Orioles player Jerry Hairston Jr. thought his career might be over.

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Hairston had unintentionally played through a broken rib in his back the previous two seasons, and it showed. 206/.270/.253 in 192 games with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers in 2006, then hit .189/.249/.289 in 184 games with the Rangers in 2007. He was a usefulness player with the Orioles and Cubs from 1999- 2005, but his career has passed the age of 31.

This was particularly frustrating for Hairston as he was healthy after all. Regardless, he couldn’t find a job… until the first day of March in 2008. Hairston was watching a movie in an Arizona movie theater by himself when Dusty Baker, one of his former managers, reached out to him. Baker was in his first year as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

“Dusty is texting me,” Hairston said. Glenn Clark Radio November 7th. He said, “You’re not with a team?” He said, ‘Can you call me? In three or four days? I go, ‘I’ll be there tonight.’ I came home, full before me and next time I smoked, I went to Sarasota.”

Baker, the Cubs manager from 2003-2006, saw firsthand how a healthy Hairston could contribute. The Orioles had traded Hairston to Chicago as part of the package for slugger Sammy Sosa prior to the 2005 season. Hairston hit . 261/. 336/. 368 in 430 plate appearances in 2005 while playing mostly center, left field, and second base.

Hairston was even better for the Reds in 2008, hitting. He continued to pitch through 2013, earning a World Series ring with the New York Yankees in 2009 along the way. Hairston credits Baker with the second half of his career.

“I don’t have the second half of my career I might have if Dusty Baker hadn’t called me,” said Hairston. 326 that year in 2008 when Dusty gave me another chance. … I thank Dusty Baker every time I see him. Every time we play against his teams, I’d send him a bottle of wine. I’d tell my kids, ‘Your college tuition is being paid because of Dusty Baker. ‘I love that guy. He’s just an incredible guy.”

Baker won his first World Series as a coach when the Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games after a 106-win regular season. The championship cements a spot in Cooperstown for Baker, who had already racked up 2,000 regular season wins as manager over his 25-year career.

Hairston explained that Baker is well respected throughout the game for the way he treats his players and how well he is prepared.

“He really cares about your family, about you personally,” Hairston said. And he’s probably the most prepared person ever. I played for Buck Showalter. Buck Showalter is right there as a ready. I went into Dusty’s office and he had a weekly game plan already – this series, the next series and the next series, who wants to play, who has not Only for beginners but also guys who will be in the mix to play.”

For more from Hairston, listen to the full interview here:

Photo credit: Colin Murphy/PressBox

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