"I played with a lot of guys in the Minor Leagues that are now on this club," Hairston said. "It was good to see some of the guys get a taste of the big leagues last year, and I'm excited to see how they all do this year."
He was happy for them even though they got the opportunity quicker than he did last year. True, Hairston did get 101 big-league games in 2004, but he was miscast as a second baseman and sent back to Triple-A the following year to focus on playing left field.
Hairston was called up briefly in June last year, but injured his shoulder in his first game, and he wound up going back to Tucson after he got healthy and wound up hitting .323 with 26 homers and 81 RBIs for a Tucson team that captured the Triple-A championship.
"Last year, when we called him up midseason, he like the others who were dominating Triple-A I'm sure were wondering when they were going to get their big-league opportunity," Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes said. "All he could talk about is how much he was enjoying [the Tucson] team and that group of guys and how much fun the winning was."
The Tucson club stormed its way to the Pacific Coast League championship last season and then beat International League Toledo in a one-game playoff to determine the Triple-A championship.
"It was the greatest experience I've had as a player," Hairston said. "We came to the ballpark every day expecting to win. Everyone had fun. There were no divisions in our group. We had guys that had big-league time, but we were all in it together.
"That's what I enjoyed the most. Everybody treated each other with respect no matter who you were, and that was the great part about it. You didn't have to worry about making a mistake. It was a great environment. Winning the whole thing and achieving that goal was great. It made me a better person and a better player."
Hairston came into this spring as the favorite to claim the final spot on the roster and the .381 he was hitting after play Thursday has all but moved him to lock status. While no one has come right out and said it, Byrnes came pretty close.
"Now I think he's at that point in his career where more than likely his Minor League days are behind him and he's just trying to establish a role in the big leagues," the GM said.
That role is likely to be the backup left fielder, but he could find himself in a starting role if Quentin opens the year on the disabled list and Eric Byrnes has to move to right field to replace him.
"I'm looking at the team right now," Hairston said. "I really don't know what's going to happen in my situation. I love this team and organization and I want to be a part of it. I'm excited about being part of this team. I'm eager to see once we get out there what happens. We're considered a young team, but not only are we a young team, we're a very talented team. These guys are going to be really, really good Major League players."