March around these parts normally finds the Cats and the Cards doing battle to see which basketball team can make the longest postseason run.
But with Louisville having banned itself from NCAA Tournament and Kentucky having already bowed out in the second round, things are quiet.
And that must make Devin Hairston’s life a bit more peaceful. The lifelong UK basketball fan is the starting shortstop for the Louisville baseball team.
“I wanted to play basketball at UK when I was about 8 years old,” Hairston said with a smile. “I stopped growing when I was in seventh grade, and everyone else got taller so I knew I had to make a switch and play baseball. I would go to the basketball games at Rupp after baseball practice. A lot of stuff that I did growing up centered around UK athletics.”
Hairston, Kentucky’s co-Mr. Baseball in 2014 at Tates Creek High School, was born and raised a Wildcats fan, and with his older brother Dorian already on the UK baseball team, it seemed plausible that the University of Kentucky would be his home for the next four years as well.
“I wasn’t really looking to talk to a bunch of schools,” said Hairston, a hotly recruited prospect. “I kind of knew it was between Louisville and UK from the start of my recruiting process.”
It was just there was something that just clicked with the University of Louisville. We just have a culture in the program that just breeds success.
After setting foot on Louisville’s campus, meeting Coach Dan McDonnell and seeing the Cardinals’ recent success, Hairston knew U of L was a place where he could make his dreams of playing professional baseball come true.
“It was just there was something that just clicked with the University of Louisville,” Hairston said. “We just have a culture in the program that just breeds success.”
Despite batting just .212 last year as a freshman, Hairston played a huge role in the Cardinals earning an NCAA Tournament regional title. The shortstop was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the Louisville Regional after hitting .500 with three doubles, three runs batted in, four runs scored and two walks in three games.
After a year of college ball, Hairston has enhanced his game by learning from the Major League Baseball prospects on the U of L roster. Five Cardinals were named to preseason All-America teams.
“They’re high-profile prospects for the next level,” Hairston said. “That’s where I want to be eventually, and I see the type of work that they put in and I try and emulate that in the things that I do so I can get there one day.”
The Cardinals (16-4 overall, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are ranked No. 7 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball, and No. 8 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and by Baseball America.
Hairston has started all 20 games this season for Louisville and is batting .361 with six doubles and 13 RBI and 12 runs scored. He ranks third on the team with eight multiple-hit games.
As the Cardinals chase their third College World Series appearance in the last four years, two important local matchups loom — April 6 at Kentucky and April 19 against UK at home.
“I like the game going down to UK because I grew up being a big UK fan and I was like, man I hope to play for UK one day,” Hairston said. “It turned out that I played for Louisville, but I really enjoy playing that game down the road.”
Louisville at Purdue
6 p.m. Wednesday