Nationals utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. answers a lot questions about his father, Jerry Sr., and grandfather, Sam - a pinch hitter extraordinaire in the 1970s and Negro League player, respectively. One of four three-generation baseball families, the Hairstons are proud of their storied baseball history and multi-generational accomplishments.
Certainly, Sam and Jerry Sr. taught their children about life and baseball - passing on their talent and advice. But that’s not the whole story. At the core of this baseball family is a remarkable woman whose influence is both immeasurable and understated.
Born and raised in Mexico, mother Esperanza Hairston met Jerry Sr. during his winter ball assignment with the Hermosillo Naranjeros. The two were married in 1974 at Hector Espino Stadium. Their first child, Jerry Jr., was born in 1976; he was the first of five children.
“She definitely was the rock in our family,” said Jerry of Esperanza. “Everybody talks about my dad. But my mom was definitely the one who raised us most of the time because my dad was away playing on the road. My mom had a tremendous influence.”
While Hairston Sr. balanced major league travel with fatherhood, Esperanza made sure sure her children finished their homework and made it to Little League games or basketball practice. Moreover, her fiery, passionate personality taught Jerry and his siblings the importance of confronting challenges, seizing opportunities and keeping perspective.
“She always gives me that edge,” Jerry added. “When I’m feeling a little down or even if I don’t feel down but she thinks I do, she’ll call me and say, ‘Remember, go get them.’ She always has that go-get-them mentality. That’s how she approaches life. Don’t sit back on your heels. Go get them and make something happen.”
Much like his mother, Jerry also approaches life and baseball with energy and passion. His outgoing personality is one of the many ways one can spot Esperanza’s clear influence on his life and career.
Although she is proud of the Hairston tradition within the African American community, Esperanza also taught her children to embrace their Mexican roots. In 2009, Jerry and his brother Scott accepted an offer to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, a magical moment for Esperanza.
“The joy on her face - she couldn’t hide it when we played for Team Mexico,” Jerry said.
Later that year, when the Yankees defeated the Phillies in the World Series at Yankee Stadium, Esperanza was in attendance and celebrated with Jerry, who was a bench player for New York.
Those may be the baseball moments that Esperanza is most proud of but nothing compares to the success she had in teaching her sons to have good character, both on and off the field.
“Everybody talks about men raising men but women raise men too,” Jerry said. “The biggest thing for her was (for me to) be a good father, be a good husband, be a good man and be a good person. I think that’s the thing that she’s the most proud of.”