Haines Putting Pieces Back Together
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Wednesday, June 25, 2008
In the summer of 2006, the Mets drafted Tim Haines in the 27th round, 814th overall. The odds of a player picked that late in the draft making it to big leagues is an extremely unlikely endeavor, but Haines, with his awkward, side arm delivery, had plenty of people thinking otherwise.
After barely a month in Single-A ball that year, Haines had everything going his way, going 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA in 10 games and was quickly becoming a fan favorite. With a big Texas smile and penchant for pitching himself out of trouble in tight ball games, Haines was looking like one of the brightest prospects in the organization.
Nevertheless, the year would eventually prove to be much more than sunshine and daisies for the young right hander.
On July 20, 2006, the then 21-year old earned a 50-game suspension for using banned substances, putting a permanent blot on a baseball resume that could have one day had major league experience on it.
Soon after the suspension, articles began to hit the press portraying Haines as an immature rebel, describing accounts of him shooting a bb-gun out his dormitory window at his coach’s car in college. There were also stories of how he missed morning practices with the Cyclones due to late-night escapades in Brooklyn bars.
“I had a lot of fun in college,” he said, via telephone from Fort Worth Texas. “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
Considering how personable he was to fans and media while in Brooklyn, many were confused when the news broke and didn’t know what to believe about him. While Haines still refuses to admit he partook in taking performance enhancing substances, he admits things didn't go as planned for him in Brooklyn and that he is still dealing with his mistakes today.
“I’m a totally different person than I was two years ago,” Haines said. “I’m a lot more mature now. I learned from this and I know it will never happen again.”
Never comfortable in Brooklyn, Haines tried his hardest to become an urban cowboy of sorts, but it was a transition he never fully made.
“[Being in Brooklyn] was a new experience. I’m definitely not a big city guy. To be honest, I didn’t like Brooklyn very much. I just felt so claustrophobic there,” he said. “There were so many people packed in one place all the time. I’m from South Texas, so there are probably 30,000 people in a five-mile radius, while in Brooklyn there are probably 100,000 people in a two-mile radius. It’s something that took me some time to get used to and if I wasn’t on the field everyday, I honestly don’t think I would have made it. I couldn’t see myself living there. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t like playing in that stadium though. It’s an amazing environment.”
While his situation in Brooklyn was far from ideal, things would prove to get even worse for him. By January 2007, the Mets had decided to part ways with the 6’2, 170 pound reliever, leaving him jobless. To make matters worse, Haines was stuck with a few games left to serve on his suspension before being eligible to play professional baseball again.
Stuck in baseball purgatory after failing to secure another contract from a professional club, Haines opted to play in the independent circuit for the Costal Bend Aviators, where he struggled through the season, amassing a 5-5 record with a 5.47 ERA in 46 games, despite leading the team with 85 strikeouts.
With the Aviators going 38-54 that season, with an attendance of only 58, 715 (the Cyclones attendance the year Haines played for them was 289,323, in 18 fewer games), it was a step backwards for the once promising prospect. Regardless, he was still happy to have an opportunity to get back into the sport. “Before that, I thought I was done. I thought I was never going to play again. I definitely wasn’t the happiest camper,” Haines said. “The thought definitely crossed my mind as to what I was going to do with my life. It was about two days after that I started getting calls from Independent Leagues and I started to get my confidence back.”
Haines originally tried going back to college after the Mets released him, but he had trouble focusing in school and yearned to get back on any diamond that would take him.
“I just didn’t have it in me to go back to school, it was such a drain, so I figured what the heck, school is always going to be there and baseball is not,” said Haines. “So I might as well just play for as long as I can now. School will always be there.”
Now in his second season in Independent baseball, Haines has settled into a role as a reliever/spot starter for the Fort Worth Cats and has reclaimed the success that captured so many eyes in Brooklyn just two short summers ago. In 14 games this season, Haines has a 2.83 ERA, with opposing hitters hitting just a lackluster .223 against him.
Despite his success this season though, Haines is still skeptical that he’ll ever accomplish his big league goals and feels many teams will think twice about taking a chance on him.
“I obviously have a big cloud over my head,” he said. “I always wonder if I was doing really well if they’d think I was on steroids again and put my name on the bottom of the list. It all depends on who has the confidence in me and knows that I’m clean and that I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
Rather than regret the mistakes he’s made however, Haines is intent on making the most of the opportunity he has with the Cats. Ironically, it’s his first time on a winning team since High School and is an experience he says he’s enjoying immensely.
Nevertheless, it isn’t a place he’d like to be in forever.
“I definitely want to get back in the league,” Haines said. “Obviously, it’s every player’s dream to play in the major leagues and I’m going to play for as long as my body allows me to. I’m only 23 years old and I think I still have something left in my tank. I definitely don’t want to be a career independent league player. No one wants to be. Everyone wants to be in affiliated ball.”
This time around, Haines doesn’t see himself making the same mistakes that cost him his first cup of coffee in professional baseball. More mature and focused, Haines believes he’s a better person than he was two years ago and feels he’s also a better ballplayer.
“The last two years, I’ve been the youngest guy on the team’s I’ve played on,” he said. “Most of the guys are in their late 20s and early 30s and have a lot of experience. I’ve learned a lot about baseball from these guys and a lot about myself.”
Ultimately, time will tell how much Haines has changed and if he’ll ever be able to relight the candle of success. Until then, he knows he can only work with the cards he’s dealt himself.
“I have no regrets. If I wouldn’t have made those mistakes, I would have never have learned from them,” Haines said. “I’m never going to put myself in a situation like that ever again.”