The story keeps getting better and better. With every start, reality sets in a little deeper. Padres pitcher Jesse Hahn is living out his childhood dream on the grand stage. Tuesday night in San Francisco, Hahn used his arsenal of pitches, which includes a nasty curveball, to outpitch the great Tim Hudson as San Diego defeated the Giants, 7-2. Hahn's brief Major League career has produced four starts, a 3-1 record and a 2.38 ERA. Hahn was quoted after Tuesday's win saying he felt "really relaxed" on the mound.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Hahn about his rise to the big leagues and the challenge of remaining focused while dealing with the thrill of facing players he used to watch on television.
"You try to do as much as you can not to be star struck," Hahn said. "I mean, in the back of your head, these were guys you idolized growing up. It's cool to actually share a field with them."
After just a few minutes on the phone with Hahn, it was perfectly clear that he's easy to pull for -- a prototypical lunch-pail type of guy. Hahn is humble, polite, hardworking and is appreciative of everything that he's earned, and everything his family has done for him. The 24-year-old right-hander comes from a blue-collar family, in which doing the right thing was preached time and time again. His parents Fred and Kate Hahn, and his sisters Melissa and Stephanie, remain a major influence in his life.
"We all lived in a hard-working blue-collar town. We didn't have much. Not many people had much in the town that I'm from," Hahn said. "That's why you do have to make the right decisions and stick to what you really want to do. My dad was always there for me. He practiced baseball with me every day, he'd take me to games. He'd do everything he could to make sure I was out of trouble and sticking to school and baseball."
The town was Groton, Conn., the submarine capital of the world. Fred, a native of Pittsburgh, gave up life in the steel mills and moved the family to Groton in the 1980s. He got a job as a carpenter at Electric Boat, a company that builds submarines for the U.S. Navy. Fred handed down to Jesse a tireless work ethic as well as a love of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But that didn't diminish Hahn's excitement of pitching against the Mets at Citi Field, about 140 miles from Groton. It was Hahn's second big league start.
"It was so surreal to be a part of it," Hahn said. "It was really cool to throw at Citi Field in front of family members. That game was so special that it actually felt like my debut."
Hahn won that game. It was his first victory in the Majors. It was a day he'll never forget and a day that seemed unlikely to happen given Hahn's injury history.
Right after he was selected by the Rays in the sixth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Hahn blew out his elbow in his final college start at Virginia Tech.
"It hurt me. It put me down because I thought my career was backtracked, and I wasn't able to play baseball for a while," Hahn said. "It was hard to stay positive during that time. I stuck it out. It made me want to work harder because baseball was further away, so I wanted to work harder to get back on the field."
Hahn missed two years of professional baseball rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Then, another setback, Hahn broke his right foot. He endured yet another surgery.
With college behind him and rehab in the rearview mirror, Hahn had a singular mission -- pitch on the big stage. Fast forward to 2014 and Hahn is not only pitching, he's making a name for himself 3,000 miles from home. But Fred and Kate are always just a phone call away.
"They've supported me throughout everything," Hahn said. "If I deal with something or have a tough time with something, they're the first ones I call to ask for help."
One month into his Major League career, Hahn doesn't seem to need much assistance. It's actually the opposing hitters who could use a little pep talk.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.