Haeger happy on links and mound
Reliever once held dreams of career in professional golf
WASHINGTON -- It was Saturday afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, and most of the Padres were huddled around any viable television, trying to catch a glimpse of any number of college football games.
Reliever Charlie Haeger was trying to find a free television that was showing the Ryder Cup.
"I like watching them play as a team and the intensity the Ryder Cup brings out of them," said Haeger, an avid golfer. "It's different than the regular tournaments. They are rooting for each other, so that's pretty neat."
It wasn't all that long ago that Haeger, claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 10, had dreams of becoming a professional golfer that rivaled his hopes for a professional baseball career.
The 25-year-old Haeger, the White Sox 25th-round pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, played a year and a half in the Minor Leagues before deciding to go to college and play golf, as he enrolled at Madonna University in Michigan, where his brother, Greg, is the baseball coach.
"I went to Spring Training [in 2003] and decided to go back," said Haeger. "Baseball was kind of second fiddle to me at that point. I wasn't having the success that I wanted. I was 18, 19 years old at the time, and it was my first time living alone. I figured I would go back home and go to school."
Haeger played one season of golf at Madonna while helping his brother coach the baseball team on the side. It was then that Haeger realized that he missed playing baseball.
"After working out with my brother's team ... there is only so much time you can be out on the field and not want to do that again," Haeger said. "I had the itch to play again."
The White Sox welcomed him back in 2004 as a knuckleball specialist. He reeled off 14 wins between high Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham in 2005 and was in the Major Leagues in 2006.
Haeger said the two sports are more similar that one might thinks.
"[Golf] teaches you patience, teaches you some stamina, and being able to stick with it," Haeger said. "It's a great game. It correlates well with baseball. You're out there by yourself; you make a bad swing or a bad pitch, it's your fault."
Haeger has appeared in two games with the Padres, allowing five earned runs over 1 2/3 innings with three walks. The Padres like that Haeger can start and pitch in relief. He'll be in the mix for a job in Spring Training in February.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.