After a walk-off hit ended his sophomore season in disappointing fashion and an elbow injury kept him sidelined for most of the fall, University of Louisville All-American shortstop Devin Hairston eagerly enters his junior season with improved mental toughness and a new appreciation for the game.
“(The injury) helped me remember how much this game really means to me. It’s easy after an injury to come back and say I’m just happy to be playing again.” Hairston said at the University of Louisville’s baseball media day, “I just want to be able to bring that excitement and joy everyday to the field and let my teammates feed off of it.”
Hairston, a junior from Lexington, Kentucky, started all 64 games at shortstop last season, while hitting .361, with 45 RBIs, and 56 runs scored. He also earned All-ACC third team honors for his play last season.
“He’s a superstar,” remarked Coach Dan McDonnell, “… The defense is so good, sometimes it overshadows the bat, so people don’t realize how much success he had as a hitter last year.”
Coming off of his impressive sophomore campaign, Hairston will be expected to continue his on-field production, while expanding his leadership role. As a key returning player, he hasn’t let the pressure to lead affect his approach to preparation.
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“I just try to take it all in stride. Coach will never throw anything at us that he doesn’t believe we can handle.” Hairston explained, “It’s just about understanding that we have different responsibilities this season.”
Coach McDonnell was not shy about emphasizing the important role Devin Hairston will have to play if the Cardinals want to accomplish their goals for the season.
“You have to be great up the middle ultimately to get to Omaha or win a national championship,” Coach McDonnell said, “… And with Devin Hairston, you have the chance of having one of the best infields in the country.”
Following two consecutive ACC regular season championships and four straight NCAA Super Regional appearances, the sustained success of the University of Louisville baseball program is undeniable. Even after losing seven players to the MLB draft last season, the lofty goals remain because of talented players like Devin Hairston. The expectation: another run at Louisville’s first baseball national championship.
The Cardinals will start their season with three games in Clearwater, Florida this weekend against Alabama State, Maryland, and Ball State, before facing Eastern Kentucky in their home opener at Jim Patterson Stadium on February 22.