Trevor Hoffman: "You're (Dirk) interesting to talk to. You're definitely deeper than your average guy"
"Thanks, I think."
Dirk Hayhurst is deeper than the average guy. He thinks a lot. Maybe he thinks too much to be a successful major league pitcher. Bruce Walton told us that a pitcher needs to have a short memory.
Lucky for us, being deeper than average helps make him a great writer.
Hugo, in his review of Bullpen Gospels, said that it "is hilarious, touching, unflinching in its honesty, and unapologetic in its basic decency." This one is all that again, plus it has the story of meeting, at the start of the book, and marrying, at the end of the book, Bonnie, which gives the book an added dimension that the other didn't have. It gives him someone on his side.
His family? It's still a mess and they never seemed to be on his side. His grandma calls Bonnie a whore the first time they meet. His dad tells him that he is making a big mistake when Dirk tells him that he and Bonnie are getting married. His mom? There is some serious passive aggressive stuff going on between Dirk and his mom. I'm not always 100% sure which one is in the wrong. He seems to take everything she says in the worst possible way, and she seems oblivious to how hurtful some of the things she says are.
With some of the things she says, well, it is easy to see why he doesn't like it. Perhaps the funniest bit in the book is the conversation he and his mom have when she phones him, waking him up, to say how proud she was to have seen him on ESPN SportsCenter's highlights. The highlight? He gave up a big home run to Manny Ramirez. She claims not to understand why he's not thrilled to be on national TV. It is just hilarious, a proud mom, excited that she saw her son on TV, and a son that wishes he could just curl up and die.
Dirk is incredibly introspective in the book, you find out what he is feeling about everything. You can't help but be very happy for him when he gets the word that he is being called up to the majors. It is just a great moment.
Then when things don't go well for him with the Padres (and it really doesn't go well, he had an ERA of 9.72 in 10 appearances) the introspection turns to depression. I'll admit I found this part of the book hard to read. Not that it was a bad read. I mean we all have self doubt. We all have times when things go badly. Fortunately, most of us don't get to see our worst moments played in slow motion on national TV. But reading about someone else's worst moments and self pity is something I find tough to do. I guess I have grown to expect my heroes to suck it up, to hide that stuff.
That's me, I know. And Dirk's just being honest. That's why we like his writing so much. He's so honest. During this part he is very painfully honest.
Dirk is never afraid to show himself in a poor light. In the worst of his self pity, over how bad things are going for him in the majors, he describes a scene with Bonnie where his behavior is almost unforgivable, but she forgave him so we should too. I'm sure we have all had those moments when things are going awful and your friends are trying to cheer you up but everything they say just make things worse.
Fortunately the book ends on a lighter note, the wedding goes well, and the epilogue talks about the first day of spring training with the Jays, getting us Jays' fans primed for the next book.
There are tons of funny stories about life in Triple-A and the hazing that rookie major leaguers go through (not that I want to be imagining what a bunch of hairy baseball players look like in Hooter's girl clothing). You'll be surprised at the amount of thought put into bringing a bag of candy to the bullpen. I'm always surprised at how funny baseball players find getting naked and putting their junk into their teammates' faces is. It really isn't something I've ever had the urge to do.
Mostly you are reminded how much you like Dirk, despite him putting all his faults on display, or maybe because he puts all his faults on display. I've always said that I really don't want to get to know the players. I don't want to be like some of the media guys who will talk up a player because he is good to interview or trash a player because he snubbed them. It is harder to analyse them fairly if you know one is a creep and then next one is a really good guy.
Players never stay with your team forever. It is easier to deal with them leaving if you don't have a personal attachment. With Dirk, we were thrilled when he joined the Jays. And sad when they let him go. Far beyond his value as a player, because we think of him as a friend. We know more about him than we do some of our close friends.
The book is a terrific read. If you loved Bullpen Gospels (I'd have a hard time believing you are a baseball fan if you didn't) you will love Out of My League too. You can pre-order it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com if you are on the other side of the border. Or you can wait until February 28th and pick it up at your local book store. I'm sure, after the success of Dirk's first book, they all will have it on their shelves.