I cannot understate how fortunate I feel to have had a chance to speak with Dirk Hayhurst on the Cover the Bases podcast. His book The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran is receiving critical comparisons to classics such as The Catcher in the Rye and to the baseball standard Ball Four. I am convinced that many years from now I will pridefully point to this episode and exclaim, “I spoke for 40 minutes to Dirk Hayhurst about The Bullpen Gospels!”.
This page turner will make you alternately laugh or cry, as Dirk presents both the camaraderie of being one of the guys trying to make it to the bigs and the hardships of reaching for the dream while surviving a dysfunctional family.
As readers, we are fortunate that this book is not just another pulp expose of what we have come to expect from “behind the scenes” baseball books, rather it is a thought provoking glimpse from someone who wants to deliver a critique of what it means to be a man inside the uniform of a major leaguer. We get to read about, and celebrate, the healing that he has experienced … only because he has shown us the pain and suffering he has endured through challenges on and off the field.
The title for this book comes from the column that Dirk had written for his hometown newspaper called the Canton Repository. The Bullpen Gospels does hint at the higher wisdom that Dirk uncovers during the most important episodes in the book. After having a difficult outing in front of the top management of the organization, he is confronted with his alcoholic brother’s desire to reach out to those he has hurt in the past. While Dirk is in no mood to forgive so easily, he comes to the realization that all he has been striving for is right in front of him. That the true measure of the person underneath the uniform, is how he deals with adversity.
Meanwhile, Dirk’s roommate Frenchy is distraught over his own perceived failings until Dirk can set him straight on the realities of baseball. It was at this moment that Dirk became aware of the wisdom that he had acquired within the game, as well as the vision to see what he would become if he bought into the sport as the single driving force in his life.
Dirk does admit that upon finally making it to the big leagues, he could sense times when he would fall back into believing the game is bigger than it really is, and by putting that pressure on himself, struggled with his pitching.
His major league career at this stage is in recovery from shoulder surgery as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, after having been acquired from the San Diego Padres. Some of his former teammates on the Double-A and A Ball teams described in the book, have now reached the Padres ballclub and are gearing for a run to the playoffs. Rehab is going well and he hopes to be in Blue Jays spring training in 2011.
In this literal “inside baseball” locker room, there were times when teammates would challenge and question the purpose of the book and don the macho stereotypes, demanding to be shown in a positive light, or else. Then his articles in Baseball America started to appear and some were more willing to engage with him in hopes of positive press.
But it was explaining The Bullpen Gospels to his boyhood idol Trevor Hoffman that Dirk claims was the scariest moment of his career. He felt that if Trevor Hoffman had dismissed the book, and looked upon it negatively, that it could have all been over.
Fortunately, the two hit it off intellectually and had numerous conversations throughout the season about everything from the education system to overcoming adversity. They had a real genuine connection beyond the usual banter of athletes.
The two of them come to the conclusion that the game of baseball, professional baseball specifically, is a “tool” that men can use to achieve greater things beyond the game. Since society projects certain privileges and authority on ballplayers, they have the power and responsibility, to do many things. The job that they have provides limitless possibility for having a positive impact on the lives of those who need it.
For those who know a bit about Dirk, they will know about the children’s character he has developed called The Garfoose. For those interested in knowing the full story can find it a Dirk’s website DirkHayhurst.com. The Garfoose has an entire backstory as the species protecting the world’s most perfect baseballs, harvested only by monks. Look for further development and literary appearances for The Garfoose in the near future.
We have to extend our sincerest thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for appearing on Cover the Bases to talk about his book The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran. We can’t wait for the sequel to come out, so that we can have another chance to spend some time talking baseball and life with this very talented, articulate, and unique individual.
Please let us know in the comment section what you think about this authentic account of one man’s experience, as well as any other suggestions you might have for future editions of the podcast.
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