J.J. Hardy was jogging to his spot along the first baseline for player introductions when a revelation struck him with the subtlety of a fastball to the ribs.
His childhood dream had come true. He was a Big League ballplayer.
That was opening day of the 2005 season and the Tucson native was the starting shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Before long, Hardy bullet-pointed the term “all-star” onto his hardball resume.
Quicker than it takes a pitcher to pick a runner off of first base, the Sabino High School alum’s career began to founder. As Hardy soon found out, baseball can be as fickle as it is rewarding.
But if there’s one thing the storied game is notorious for, it’s its second, and sometimes third and fourth, chances.
For Hardy, his quest back into baseball’s good graces took part in a city appropriately dubbed ‘Charm City’ as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
“2009 was a rough season and I kind of got a new start in Minnesota,” Hardy said before the start of the 2011 season.
After five seasons with the Brewers, Hardy landed a gig as the Twins’ starting shortstop to begin the 2010 season.
But injuries limited him to 101 games — his lowest total since playing only 35 games in an injury-plagued 2006.
Minnesota promptly shipped him off to Baltimore in the off-season — his third team in as many seasons.
“I’ve got a new start here in Baltimore,” Hardy said at the Orioles’ spring training complex in Sarasota,Fla.
“Things are going really well.”