When Joe Hayden needs a reprieve from the daily stresses of life and work, he drives down to one of the Belleville Khoury League fields his family helped build.
Field No. 6 at Arnold Field off South 18th Street is dedicated to the Hayden family. At the flagpole is a memorial plaque for Hayden's late father, Harley Hayden.
"I watch the kids here and enjoy it as much as going to Busch Stadium," Hayden said. "These kids are Khoury kids like I was, helping out, and some day they might be a big board member, too."
Hayden, now 49 and a board member, was the youngest president the Belleville league ever had at age 22.
Hayden's parents told him early on to find an organization to give his all. He didn't have to look far.
His family already was involved in Khoury League. Hayden's dad served as the league's first vice president and rewrote the bylaws as league secretary. Hayden's late mom, Betty Hayden, was president of the ladies auxiliary for three terms.
Hayden remembers how, at age 5, he couldn't wait to join his three older brothers on the field. Dad would help with the older boys' teams, then come home and play catch with little Joey.
"He taught me how to throw when I was 5," Hayden said. "At the start of each season he would bring me home a hat."
But his father never saw him play.
Hayden was 5 1/2 when his father died of a massive heart attack while the family was at their vacation cabin in remote southeastern Missouri.
Hayden remembers the panic as his mom put all the kids in the '69 Impala and drove 19 miles to get dad to the Perryville, Mo., hospital.
"I remember it all."
Hayden returns to the cabin several times a year. There's a sad memory there, but he also finds solace in the cabin his dad built when Hayden was about to be born.
"It's in the sticks. I call it my Jesse James hideout."
Hayden and his wife, Christine Hayden, take their poodle, Peanut, to the cabin for their anniversary -- they married in 2004 -- or just to get away.
"He sees the coolers and, man, he's sitting in the front seat waiting to go," Hayden said.
Memorial Day weekend is when all the Hayden brothers and their families meet at the cabin for a Wiffle ball tournament.
"It's not just a friendly Wiffle ball game," Christine said. "He's very competitive and it cracks me up because it's just a Wiffle ball game."
She also pokes fun at Hayden's particularities with food. He likes to keep his food separated on his plate and eats it in sections.
On their second or third date, she leaned over her plate of pasta and took a piece of steak off his plate. He was quiet the rest of the meal.
When Christine relayed the incident, Hayden's mom said, "No, Christine, you don't want to touch Joey's food."
Christine also affectionately puts up with the mix tapes Hayden makes for road trips or to get pumped up for hockey games.
Hayden compiles sound clips of sports highlights, music and inspirational quotes from President John F. Kennedy and the like onto tapes or compact discs.
He also has more than 400 music albums and he loves live music: He's seen The Who and The Rolling Stones in concert five times each.
"Tons and tons of everything but pure country and opera," Hayden said. "I can listen to Frank Sinatra and turn around and listen to Led Zeppelin. That's one of my escapes. Just turn it up loud and block out everything."
One time Hayden drove Christine to Chicago to see The Who. By the time she got there, she knew every song.
Hayden played tennis, baseball and football in high school. He loves the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Cardinals, and the St. Louis Blues tops his chart.
Hayden likes to say he would trade two of the city's World Series championships and the Super Bowl victory for the Blues to get a Stanley Cup in his lifetime.
But just two World Series, not more.
After all, part of his license plate, "DUGGIN 9" refers to his favorite baseball player, Joe Torre, who played for the Cards and wore the number 9.
"Duggin" is Hayden's nickname. During the Belleville West High School years, when others liked to say, "Hey dude," Hayden said, "Hey Dugan," because he looked up to Khoury League board member, Dugan Kell. A friend wrote "Duggin" on Hayden's locker and the spelling stuck.
Hayden says he's the shyest person you'll meet, but his wife says it's only until you get to know him.
As a young Khoury League president, Hayden realized the grass needed to be cut before Field Day and he did not have a tractor or anyone to help.
He walked over to Friday's and shouted out his plight to a bar full of strangers.
Within two hours, 12 guys came down with their push mowers and worked into the night. A police officer even drove by because the stadium lights were on so late.
Hayden doesn't like conflict, but he will argue his point.
"I learned a lot of wit from Johnny Carson," Hayden said. "Deep down, he was shy, but when the lights came on and he had to do his job, he did it."
Hayden said he knew he had to do something when he was walking his dog one night in 2011 and no longer felt safe. He could take action, ignore the situation or move out of the home he grew up in.
Hayden decided to run for alderman again and now serves as Ward 5 alderman. He previously served from 1993-97. Hayden believes he has the leadership, education and public service experience to do the job well.
"When the game is on, the game's on. When you're fighting for the people, you have to do what you got to do and stand up for what you believe in."
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.