minor leagues

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.

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Tim Sommer was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles and spent 8 years in the organization. He experienced great joys and elation as he progressed through the system, learning the ropes from experienced veterans and wise coaches. He also experienced the ruthless and heartless treatment that can come upon individuals attempting to achieve the ultimate dream.

Tim joins us on this episode of the Cover the Bases podcast to discuss his experiences documented in the book Beating About the Bushes.  The book is published by Infinity Publishing.

The motivation for getting this personal story in writing came from Tim’s family.  As he would regale them with his endeavors in professional baseball, it became apparent that in order to record and share these life experiences, he needed to document them in a book.  That is what we are attempting to do here at Baseballisms.com, collect and curate personal baseball stories for posterity sake.

Growing up in rural Ohio, Tim was fortunate to have been discovered by a bird dog scout traveling the area looking for prospects. The scout, with a day job in a steel mill, had come across a slim kid with glasses who could fire a blazing fastball.  Upon signing his first professional contract, Tim had one thing on his mind and that was making a visit to the home of Lefty Grove.  Upon greeting one of the newest members of the brethren of professional ballplayers, Lefty took Tim into the house and spent the afternoon chatting about baseball.

Throughout the book, Tim provides a look at events and human interest stories that were transpiring during these revolutionary times in the country.  He has an exquisite tale about a hitchhiker he encountered on a roadtrip down to spring training and how they would cross paths later in life.  It is an example of the influence that baseball can have on us, no matter what life’s circumstances may bring.

Tim had numerous influences in his baseball career, including three significant managers.  His manager at Ohio University was Bob Wren.  Coach Wren had the decisive conversation with him prior to accepting the contract from the Orioles.

Within the Orioles organization there were two managers who stand out in the telling of this story.  One was a stalwart of the organization who epitomized every aspect of the Oriole legacy, Cal Ripken.  The other was with the organization for only a short period of time, had major league success with another ballclub, but unquestionably derailed Tim’s progression to the majors, Darrell Johnson.

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