Saturday, March 03, 2012

Dirk Hayhurst's Out of My League

There is no way not to like Dirk Hayhurst's Out of My League: A Rookie's Survival in the Bigs. You probably won't believe me, but baseball isn't even the most important part of the book.  Yes, of course baseball is central, and the insider details are cool, but he doesn't even leave for spring training until Chapter Ten. Instead, it is a raw, introspective, and absorbing account of dealing with a dysfunctional family, getting married, and figuring out your career even when things turn sour. It just turns out the career is baseball.

Like his first book, The Bullpen Gospels (which I reviewed when it came out two years ago), this book is unflinchingly open. There was more than one time when I read in amazement about what he was telling the world about his insecurities (not to mention ballplayer nudity). What makes this second book different is that his relationship with this future wife takes center stage, as he is trying to understand how to make that work within the confines of baseball demands. In fact, he's trying to sort out exactly how important baseball really is, a question that for most players is sacrilegious, or at least something you would not make public. At one point after a bad start, in frustration he just screams, "I hate this fucking game!"

But as always, Hayhurst is often funny, really funny. The account of his first time on the mound in the major leagues (for the Padres, coincidentally) is priceless (such as having the umpires remind him what direction the next base was when he walked in his first at bat). Or the account of what living in a minor league apartment is like--bare and stripped, with no more belongings than what will fit in a battered suitcase. Or how his mother called him, all excited because she saw him on SportsCenter giving up a home run to Manny Ramirez.

From the perspective of a baseball fan and reader, I wish Hayhurst could have a long career in many different places and chronicle it all. That wouldn't necessarily be the best for him, since every player's goal is a long-term contract to play in one place. But I have to wonder, and I am sure he has done so himself, how many seasons he can write about until people are wary of being written about. He is now off to play baseball in Italy, where I am guessing books on baseball aren't exactly topping the charts so it won't matter. Hopefully he will write a book about it, and it will burst with introspective insight. I look forward to it.

Incidentally, when you read the book you can also check out his photo gallery of that year:


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