Derick E. Hingle, US PRESSWIRE
After arriving at Orioles spring training, it took me all of five minutes before I started questioning if some of the stories that I had heard about the teams new shortstop were false.
J.J. Hardy was constantly smiling, interacting with teammates and reporters and challenging anybody foolish enough to believe that they had a chance to a ping-pong match. Even around people that he met just days or in some cases hours earlier, Hardy, with movie star looks and a West Coast ease, appeared totally in his element.
It was hard to believe that about seven years earlier, he was so depressed and worried that a shoulder injury would end his burgeoning career that he would sit in a dark house, avoid calls from friends and family members and refuse to watch baseball.
That was until his brother, Logan, 17 months his elder, moved in to J.Js Arizona home with his own issues. Logan had just finished a stint as a communications specialist with the U.S. Army's 75th Field Artillery Brigade, one of the first to reach Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The experience, coupled by a broken marriage, scarred him so much that he couldnt sleep through the night or complete even the most basic task.
There were some difficult times, but the Hardy Brothers battled and beat depression together.
I caught up with J.J. and Logan Hardy to hear more about their story on a beautiful spring morning in Sarasota. As a photographer snapped pictures, they played ping pong, discussed various fishing locales and engaged in friendly trash talk. The dark days couldnt have been any further behind them.
The following day, Logan sat in the stands and watched his brother hit an RBI single, one of many run-scoring hits that J.J. Hardy would deliver in one of the finest seasons ever by an Orioles shortstop.
-- Jeff Zrebiec