Padres Prospect Interview: Dirk Hayhurst

The good news for the ladies: <br><br> Dirk Hayhurst is still able to have children. <br><br> The bad news for opponents: <br><br> "I will definitely go out there and take a line drive in the (groin) any day to get a win for my team!"

The good news for the ladies again:

He now sports a cup on the mound.

Hailing from Canton, Ohio – home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the annual game which kicks off the NFL season – Dirk Hayhurst is a forgotten hero.

When was the last time a parade was held for a baseball player in Canton? Most folk don't even realize that baseball is a sport in that area.

Those that are playing baseball count a homer if it splits the uprights or hits the front row of the stands to either side. Foul balls are that much tougher on the football field!

For Hayhurst, growing up was a bit of a chore. He was a baseball guy in a football town. And living in Canton did not exactly afford him the opportunity that those in California would get. With football in every shop window, Hayhurst was reminded of it daily.

"There is not much to do unless you liked football," Hayhurst revealed. "To be honest I never liked football. I really don't. I was always a baseball player and I grew up in a town where football was everything and I kind of grew up resenting it. I remember our high school was the same colors as Ohio State. Of course Ohio State is one of the biggest football programs in the nation and even our fight song was Ohio State's fight song. Right next door to my high school was McKinley and Massolin, which was the biggest high school football rivalry in the nation."

Las Vegas has a betting line on Massolin football. Name another high school football team that has what the Tigers do. Simply put, Hayhurst lived in a blue collar community obsessed with football.

"Everything was football, football, football," Hayhurst echoed. "I even got offers to try out for football. They wanted me to play quarterback. I saw our defensive line and I thought I am going to get injured, I better not."

At 6-foot-3 and an arm with life, he probably could have had a career at quarterback. But for Dirk Von Hayhurst his life was baseball and growing up in Canton held him back.

"I respect football players and everything but I just wasn't good at it," Hayhurst said. "I was good at baseball. But if I would have been good at football, I would have been the beloved golden child of my area. Since I wasn't, I had to settle for what I could get.

"I respect football but I wasn't good at it and I really wish I didn't grow up in the area that I did."

Regardless of where he grew up, Hayhurst has begun to carve out his own legacy. Perhaps his Canton brethren won't ever remember his name but he is garnering the attention of many within the San Diego Padres system. The right-hander is pitching for the Fort Wayne Wizards, a Low-A affiliate of the Friars. Converted from reliever to starter, Hayhurst has proved to be reliable and effective.

He began the season without allowing a run from the bullpen and only when he became a starter did he yield a run. A string of 20 innings of relief without a run ended when he allowed two runs over five innings in his first start.

While Hayhurst was familiar with starting from his college days at Kent State, he was having so much success as a reliever that it took the hurler a spell before he really accepted his new role.

"When they told me they wanted me to try starting again I was kind of hesitant to just dive right into that because I have been doing so well out of the pen and I kind of developed a niche there and I liked it," Hayhurst began. "I liked the chance to throw everyday. But then again I do come from an organization, at my college, where I was a great starter there and I know how to win so hesitant at first but once I got the hang of it I guess I realized I can throw strikes and get people out and what organization can't use that. I should really quit trying to figure out what they need and just do what I know I can do."

It was a stigma, Hayhurst says, he held out of college. Despite leading his Kent State team in innings pitched with 93 in 2003, Hayhurst saw himself as a reliever, or more to the point saw that as his road to the Majors.

"Honestly out of college I kind of thought I would be a reliever, just because their typical starters seem to have low-90 plus fastballs, plus breaking pitches and I never really thought of myself as a power pitcher, a power starter," Hayhurst said. "I would like to say I am more liken to Greg Maddux although that would be an insult to Greg I am sure!

"What I am saying is I work more on control. I thought that I could come out of the pen and throw strikes when they need me, get the job done and then disappear."

How quickly things change. Hayhurst has developed into a solid starter for the Wizards. While his bullpen ERA was 0.00, his starters ERA is 2.78 in 11 games.

Hayhurst is throwing strikes with the best of them. He has walked just nine batters in 84.2 innings of work and like he said, what organization can't use that?

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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