While Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline serves as fun fodder for media and fans, Hairston is well aware of how transactions this time of year can throw a measure of chaos into the lives of players who often have no input and no advanced warning. On July 8, the 10-year Major League veteran was dealt from the Cubs to the Nationals, the fourth trade of his career and the third to come during the season.
"It gets easier, but it's never easy," Hairston said. "It's difficult to make that transition, especially if you have a family.
"It's part of it. You always, as a player, want to stay on the same team, but realistically, if you want to play the game a long time, you're going to play on a couple."
A summer deal brings logistical and mental challenges that a winter trade doesn't. There's no offseason to get one's life in order and no Spring Training during which to bond with teammates. The adjustment period is compressed.
Hairston did find a bit of good fortune with his latest move. He went from a team still lodged firmly in rebuilding mode to one that has the talent to make a postseason run, despite what are becoming long odds. The Nats had a desperate need for Hairston's powerful right-handed bat, which has made him a weapon against left-handers throughout his career.
"I think it was more of an organizational move when I was heading out of Arizona, going to San Diego, but the last few times I've been traded, I've kind of looked at it like another team wanted me more than the team I was currently on," Hairston said. "It feels good to be wanted as a player, especially coming to Washington this time around, an organization I've respected for a long time."
The deal also reunited him with former teammates Chad Tracy, Kurt Suzuki and Gio Gonzalez. Rick Schu, the hitting coach for part of Hairston's time in Arizona, was promoted to the same post in Washington not long after he arrived. For Hairston, something as simple as being able to catch up with Tracy on his first day in a Nationals uniform helped to "ease the transition."
"He's got that personality to fit into any ballclub" said Suzuki. "He's a great teammate. He's easygoing, likes to have fun. He just fits in, like we've had him all year."
Jill has also done a lot to smooth the transition. When the Cubs traded Hairston, she quickly handled the details of the move, going online and finding the family a place to live in nearby Alexandria, Va., while her husband hopped on a plane to meet the Nats in Philadelphia.
It was an easier situation than what they faced the first time, with a pair of babies in tow. That 2007 season also ended in heartbreak, as the Padres lost seven of their last 11 games and three in a row, including a classic tiebreaker game against the Rockies for the National League Wild Card spot.
Hairston went 2-for-7 in that contest, hitting what could have been one of the biggest home runs in Padres history, a go-ahead two-run shot in the top of the 13th inning. But the Rockies came back with three runs against closer Trevor Hoffman to win, 9-8, ending Hairston's closest brush with the postseason thus far.
"That was very hard to go through," Hairston said.
Hairston's second midseason trade brought on a different sort of pain. On July 5, 2009, the Padres sent him to the A's in a deal between two non-contending clubs. Hairston had built an .891 OPS with the Friars that year, which he felt had cemented his place in the organization. He had also grown to love San Diego, and his family was comfortable there, putting down roots and making friends.
Hairston didn't want to go anywhere, but he called it "a hard lesson" in the business of baseball.
"As soon as I started thinking, 'Wow, I'm playing well. They're gonna want to keep me now,' they traded me," Hairston said. "That was very hard. It took a while for me to recover. I wasn't the same after that."
Coincidence or not, Hairston's performance dropped off significantly for the rest of that season, and the A's traded him back to the Padres over the winter. He signed with the Mets for the 2011 season and spent two years there before signing with the Cubs.
"Looking back on it, I could've been a little stronger mentally to deal with it," he said. "It was hard to be motivated at that point. Those things creep into your mind --'Why did this happen? Why?' It didn't make much sense to me, and the more and more I thought about it, I just said, 'You know what? I can't change this now. It happened.'"