Review: “Out Of My League” by Dirk Hayhurst

It has taken far too long for me to eke out the post that follows. Perhaps this is attributable to a bit of sloth on my part, but I think it also has something to do with the fact that reading superb literature makes me lose confidence in my own writing abilities. I wanted to do this book justice and didn’t feel up to the task. It might be a sorry excuse, but it’s all I’ve got. But on to the subject at hand…

I am not going to make you wait to the end of this review to tell you in plain language what I thought of Dirk Hayhurst’s latest work, “Out Of My League: A Rookie’s Survival In The Bigs”. It was good. Really good. This is one of those books that you can knock out in a day or less, if you are so inclined. Although, if you’re like me you will want to take several, making it last and savoring it.

I thought a lot of Dirk’s first venture, “The Bullpen Gospels” (interested parties may see my review of it here.) Select portions may have caused the lady in me to recoil, but the overall themes and message were excellent. It was a great book about baseball and life, and, in my opinion, “Out Of My League” is even better. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and I found myself thinking “Awww” more often than “Ewww“. At any rate, “Out Of My League” is a thoroughly absorbing read that baseball enthusiasts everywhere ought to embrace.

Now, if you are wondering what it is that makes this book so readable, I will tell you.
Dirk Hayhurst is an absolute top-notch writer. His pen flows with honesty, depth, and humor. He has the uncanny ability to draw you into his world. In this case, it is the world of a minor league “non-prospect” turned San Diego Padres rookie pitcher. This transition would at first seem a life-long dream come true, but quickly becomes something more like a nightmare. If you are looking for a collection of cliches about how life as a major league baseball player is magical and full of rainbows and sunshine, this is not the book for you. This is real and this is raw.

“Out Of My League” shows us a side of the baseball life that we don’t usually get to see; it offers us a glimpse at the nitty-gritty. Dirk takes us on a ride that includes surly veterans, savage Dodger fans, unwritten rules and a myriad of struggles, failures, doubts, and difficulties both on the field and off.

From what I’ve said thus far, you might be receiving the impression that this book is all doom and gloom. If I have led you to draw this conclusion, please erase it because this is not at all the case. If it were, “Out Of My League” wouldn’t be getting my endorsement. I hate books/film/etc., that just make me feel depressed. “Out Of My League” confronts the hard stuff head on, but it’s also infused with a tremendous amount of heart and wit. I laughed AND cried.

I know what you’re probably thinking by this point… Lizzy, your thesaurus called. It wants all it’s adjectives back. So I’m going to wrap it up.

When it really comes down to it, I think what I love about both “The Bullpen Gospels” and “Out Of My League” is that they’re just so gosh darn human. Baseball can so often seem like this fantasy world, but these books are about real life.

“Out Of My League” ends with the perfect lead-in for book #3 and I, for one, can’t wait to see what Dirk Hayhurst has in store for us next.

***

It would be remiss of me not to leave you all with a quick excerpt from the book. This is a pretty random one, but it literally made me guffaw. The scene takes place in a minor league club house, early on in the story…

Presently, one television was showing a Cubs’ game featuring Joe Morgan as the color man. The other showcased the latest VH1 reality show, The Flavor of Love, starring Flava Flav and his flock of debutantes.
“Where’s the remote?” bellowed Myrow. “I can’t take him anymore. We have to mute this idiot or change the channel.”
“I hate it when people try to hold on to their fame in desperate ways. They should know their time has passed and move on. It’s disgraceful to fight it,” said Bentley.
“Never happen. This clown has too many fans,” said Myrow.
“Only because they don’t know any better,” sighed Bentley. “They’re disadvantaged, really. Your average viewer will believe whatever a celebrity figure tells them to believe. That’s why they have so many guys like him doing this kind of thing nowadays.”
“What are y’all talking about?” asked Dallas, forcing his way into a seat between the pair.
“Joe Morgan,” said Myrow.

It’s FUNNY because it’s TRUE.

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Movie Monday: “I really feel like the reason I throw hard is just cause I throw hard.”

Happy President’s Day, guys! I am celebrating by offering you these two videos that have nothing whatever to do with the presidents. Or even America.

First off is a little clip from the Tampa Bay Rays fan fest, featuring David Price and FBB-favorite Dirk Hayhurst. Both guys made me laugh. For completely different reasons.

For good measure, and because I was put in a happy hockey mood yesterday when my two favorite teams won back to back games on NBC, here’s this:

 

Week Seven In Review

Week seven of the major league season : In which Florida’s young shortstop caused a bit of a kerfuffle and the Cubs reeled us back in a smidgin’.

Around The Majors…

No More Ouchies: This was not a good week, health-wise, for major leaguers. Andre Ethier broke his pinkie finger, Asdrubal Cabrera broke his arm, Marcus Thames broke his ankle by accidentally stepping on his own bat, Josh Beckett went down with back problems and Grady Sizemore with a badly bruised knee. Fantasy teams everywhere are crashing and burning.

Don’t see that everyday…: On Wednesday, the Mets’ Angel Pagan hit an inside the park home run AND started a triple play (8-2-6-3.) This last happened in 1955. How can anyone not love this crazy sport?

Hanley, Hanley, Hanley. : He may be one of the best young stars in the game today, but Hanley Ramirez is also a big baby. Lack of hustle wasn’t the issue here. Hanley’s problem is more the lack of maturity and common sense. If you remember a year or so ago when he demanded a trade following the Marlins mandate that he cut his hair, then this didn’t surprise you. Morgan Ensberg had a good take on the whole thing, in case you missed it.

“Sigh” Young Awards: Trevor Hoffman. Kerry Wood. Sigh. And an honorable mention for Dan Haren.

Titter-inducing tweets of the week : Courtesy Dirk Hayhurst and Fred Lewis…

As for the Cubs…

Big Z (The Continuing Saga): Lou has said that Carlos Zambrano will assume a long relief role in the ‘pen for a spell with the aim of stretching his arm out for an eventual return to the rotation. What a baseball soap opera!

Say! Speaking of that…: If the Cubs season thus far WERE a soap opera, what would it be called?

Super Hero of the Week: Let’s give it to Rami for his walk-off home run. Also deserving, Starlin Castro. For continuing to hit like it’s his job, and for making plays like THIS.

Kitten Eaters of the Week: John Grabow and Bob Howry (who has yet to even ink his contract, put on a uniform, or throw a pitch.)

Outstanding gloviness: Tom Gorzelanny blew my mind with this play. On a similar note…

Seeing Double – Faceplant Edition:

If he hadn’t been hurt on the play, I’d say that the “slide” by Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo (above, left) was one of the funnier things I’d seen in awhile.

Hug of the Week: I bestow it upon Tyler Colvin. Just because we have an exciting new rookie shortstop doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten that we have a pretty cool rookie outfielder as well.

Book Review: “The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran”

I will not be offering a rehashing of yesterday’s Cubs’ debacle today. I hope nobody is too disappointed.


I was more than a little excited when my copy of Dirk Hayhurst’s The Bullpen Gospels arrived last Wednesday. When I anticipate a good read (and particularly when the book is fresh off the presses) I like to “acquaint” myself with it before I begin. I’ll turn it over in my hands several times and read everything of both covers. I’ll fan the pages to summon a light breeze to my face. I’ll smell it. I know it’s weird, but these are my anticipatory rituals. I had very much looked forward to devouring The Bullpen Gospels and, although it was not entirely what I expected, it did not disappoint. Mr. Hayhurst has written a book that is raw and unflinchingly honest. It is all at once heart wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny. This is hardly just another book about baseball. I could write reams about it, but will try to keep myself in check.

The number one reason I wish people (and I mean masses of people) would read this book is for the oft-forgotten truth it exposes; the truth that, under the uniform, ballplayers are regular people. They are not immune from the fears, doubts, and inner struggles that the rest of us deal with. The threads of a baseball uniform contain no mystical powers which protect its wearer from the stinging troubles of life. A ballplayer’s brain is not equipped with special technology to shield him from anxiety and pain. If you are a broken person (and those are the very words Mr. Hayhurst used to describe himself) nothing contained in those supposedly sacred threads is going to make you whole.

How these things ever came to be a point of contention is baffling. I suppose you can chalk it up to shoddy journalism. But I think it is very important to realize that pro athletes are neither angels nor demons. They are neither so good nor so bad as they are constantly made out to be by fans and media. It is nice to know that from here on, should I encounter anyone still ignorant of these truths, I’ve got a great book to slap them upside the head with.

I’m going to say something now, and when I do, I want you to pretend that I am looking you straight in the eyes: If you consider yourself a serious baseball fan, you need to read this book. If you do not consider yourself a serious baseball fan… well, you might want to read it anyway. Mr. Hayhurst does a ridiculously good job of illustrating the day to day rhythm of minor league life. The stifling confinement of a long bus trip… the unique horror of lousy lodgings… the, um, “creativity” of a relief corps with time on their hands (conning children- I hadn’t heard that one before) … the various host family stereotypes. Every detail is captured to perfection as far as I’m concerned.

The big ideas are communicated just as flawlessly as the little ones. Everything from chapter 44 on is pure gold. This is when all those little snippety thoughts and concepts, which had been floating around uncertainly throughout the previous pages, unite to create a truly beautiful and indissoluble message. I’m not going to spoil the whole thing, but the ideas Mr. Hayhurst communicates are ones that reach far beyond the confines of the baseball diamond. They are relevant to all of us, regardless of who we are or what we do. It dawned on me in these later chapters that this wasn’t just a pretty good book about baseball- it was a pretty great book about life.

To quote George MacDonald, “The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is – not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.” Not a whole lot of books affect me in that way (which may as well be a reflection on me as on what I read) but The Bullpen Gospels did, and that is what made it a memorable and meaningful reading experience. I cherish very fond hopes that this book will change the way a lot of people look at the game. I can’t wait to see what Dirk Hayhurst has in store for us next.

This book is Zilla-approved.

Disclaimer!

It warrants pointing out that, being a book about minor league ballplayers, this book contains the sort of “colorful” language and anecdotes that would make a sailor blush. Mr. Hayhurst makes no attempt to conceal that fact that, well… boys are icky. The goings-on in buses and locker rooms are often funny, but rarely PG. Basically what I’m saying is, keep this one away from the kiddies.

P.S. For the record, I only cried 4 times in the reading of the work.

P.S.S. In the course of writing the above review, I realized that if you split the word “thinking” in two, you get “thin king.”

P.S.S.S. Please do not be deterred by my bubbly,  disjointed analysis and read this book anyway! You can read better reviews here.

One of those periodic link posts: Dirk Hayhurst Edition

I am running out of sharable links as quickly as I am good audio clips this off-season.  Somehow, though, I have collected quite the surplus of of Dirk Hayhurst related items, which is why today’s post is dedicated entirely to that gentleman.

I was introduced to Mr. Hayhurst (currently a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays) and his garfoose (a mythical fire-breathing half giraffe, half moose) through Twitter. I’ve come to find him an original, funny and genuinely admirable human being. Mr. Hayhurst’s fans are eagerly anticipating the March 30th release of his first book, The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran (you can pre-order it now on Amazon and elsewhere. I would do it if I were you.)

If I can, in some small way, spread the great enjoyment I’ve gotten from Mr. Hayhurst (and the garfoose) I will be happy. The linkage follows… click away.

The FAN 590 Toronto radio interview: Listen to the man himself discuss his book, Roy Halladay, the garfoose, etc.,

Another interview, but the kind you have to read

Get a sample of Mr. Hayhurst, the author: Thank you, Baseball America

Word of the Christmas-time snow and cookie garfoose contest made its way around the internet. Yes, the snow garfoose pictured is the one constructed by my siblings and I.

Read about the origins of the garfoose. Thank you, random Tampa Bay Rays blog.

Because I don’t trust everyone to actually click on all these links, I’m just going to go ahead and insert this video right in the post. All you have to do is press play. So DO IT.

In case I missed anything, you can just stop by Mr. Hayhurst’s own website. That should cover it.

“Mrs. Clayton, I’m receiving a psychic transmission from your husband. Really more of a voice mail. Status update. Perhaps a twitter.”

Quite a few ballplayers have jumped aboard the bandwagon that is Twitter and their numbers are increasing all the time (MLB keeps a list of those that are verified.) This is the primary reason I signed up myself. I now realize that Twitter is good for other things, too, but following baseball players is still the funnest part. What follows are my rulings on most of the Tweeting players, in random order. I’ve included a sample “tweet” from each one.

Joakim Soria (@JoakimSoria): My favorite munchkin-faced Kansas City closer tweets infrequently. This is perfectly fine, as it indicates he has a healthy lifestyle and is not spending too much time on the internet. I love his use of the English language with a passion. Ruling: Ground rule double

mmm is boring because i am not going to play winter ball because my wife is pregnant and she needs of my care”

CJ Wilson (@str8edgeracer): Not too enthusing, unless you are particularly interested in fancy cars or in CJ Wilson himself. Ruling: Balk

when I’m at the airport and I see stair cars, it reminds me of season 2 of arrested development”

Nick Swisher (@NickSwisher): I want to like Mr. Swisher, but his tweets are about as interesting as a trip to the DMV. Ruling: Rally-killing strike out.

Yankees win. Yankees win. The Yankees win. What a game. Wow”

Jason Grilli (@GrillCheese49): I enjoy Mr. Grilli enough to have recently traded a Bowman Heritage David Price rookie card for his own rookie card. He recently held followers in great suspense by divulging that he’d signed with a team, but not revealing who. We now know that the club in question is Cleveland, but the mystery was fun while it lasted. Ruling: Stand-up triple

Put the pen to paper. It is being sent out tomorrow. Sorry to keep ya all waiting. Just gotta respect my emplo http://tweetphoto.com/5591303″

Matt Kemp (@MattKemp27): For a significant while, I was not at all fond of Mr. Kemp. He has narrowly redeemed himself as of late by posting random photos of his grandmother’s cooking. Ruling: Bloop single

Yessir!!!! http://twitpic.com/rhjul

Rich Thompson/Ryan Rowland-Smith (@Chopper63/@hyphen18): I do not honestly know the difference between these two Australian AL West relief pitchers. But they’re Aussie baseball players… what more do you want? Ruling: Clean single

“http://twitpic.com/qw6k1 – The stash is coming in strong, not long to go! Movember.com”

First Day of Summer in the land of AUS!”

Seth McClung (@73_MC): Mostly talks about his baby, his wife, and his X-Box. Pleasant enough that I forgive him for being a Brewer. Ruling: RBI base hit

Little Madison is having a fussy day. Steph is out and it is my 1stday where Im alone dealing with a fussy baby! I finaly got her 2 sleep.”

Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon): Offers his managerial insight and answers fans’ questions, but also abbreviates too much. It’s OK to spread it between two tweets, Joe. Ruling: Base on balls

Off season we’ll take a break 4 a month or 2 B4 getting back after it. Winning in 2010 begins this winter. I stay in touch w/phone & emails”

Billy Butler (@BillyButlerKC): Pleasant in the same way that Seth McClung is. Ruling: solid single

Happy Anniversary to my wife! Been together for 6yrs & married for 2yrs! She is my best friend.”

Espy” Teahen (@ESPY_teahen): Mark Teahen tweets from the perspective of his dog. I’d prefer him without the gimmick. Ruling: E5

I’m only a dog, but even I know better than to cheer for the Redskins!”

Eric Young (@Eyjr): His tweets lack substance, but Mr. Young gets some points for seeming perpetually cheerful. Ruling: Reaches base on a dropped 3rd strike.

Rise & Grind tweeters. Let’s have productive days!”

Evan Longoria (@Evan3Longoria): A bit too fond of retweeting messages from female fans who think he’s attractive. Ruling: Strike out on a foul bunt attempt

“Taken a ton of pics of the trip to LA with my digital cam. Will share them in the next few days.” (Note: HE NEVER DID.)

Dirk Hayhurst (@TheGarfoose): Mr. Hayhurst makes checking one’s Twitterfeed a worthwhile pursuit. He is delightfully random and conducts frequent trivia contests with exciting prizes for the winners. Ruling: Walk-off grand-slam

Yes, I am a big league pitcher who sews, paints, writes, sculpts, loves his wife more than his paycheck, & has other interests besides ball.”

The jury is still out on: Craig Breslow (@CraigBreslow), Blake Hawksworth (@BlakeHawksworth), John Lannan (@Jlannan31), Colin Balester (@ballystar40)

“Click Click Click Click Click. It’s real easy, man.”

Monday is link day here at The Fair Base Ballist. Here shall you find links to other articles/stuff that I saw I deemed to be worth spreading.

Bullpen Gospels: Prayers are answered in unusual ways

If this lovely little bit (written by delightful Toronto relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst) doesn’t poke at your heart then you probably don’t have a heart. Seriously. You might want to consult a physician.

Baseball Prospectus Q&A with Sam Fuld

Interesting interview with Cubs outfielder/super-smart Stanford grad Sam Fuld.

Hall of Fame Futures

Joe Posnanski speculates about which current players under age 30 might wind up in the Hall of Fame.

Answer Man: Ryan Dempster talks dogs, newspapers, Canada

Dave Brown’s Answer Man interviews are my favorite favorite. This one is from back in 2008, but still good for some giggles. Questions include, “Did you bawl your eyes out during My Dog Skip?” and “How much of the Rich Harden acquisition was Hendry adding a power arm and how much of it was the Cubs getting another Canadian so you’d have someone from the Motherland on the team?”

Hire Tony LaRussa!

This piece, from the blog Hire Jim Essian, is a bit dated (September.) Oh well. It’s entertaining. (It does contain a few choice four-letter words. You’ve been warned!)