Originally published on Pinstripe Alley
Most sports books labor under the same burdensome motif: the subject is the greatest example there has ever been.
The Mick is the most tragic tragic-hero, while the Boss is the most
contradictory contradiction; or this season or that season most embodies
the soul of baseball. It's easy to understand why writers take this
tack- why else would we bother to read the book?
So when a book comes along that is relatively hyperbole free, I find it refreshing.
Dirk Hayhurst's Bullpen Gospels
is a player's story of struggling through the minor leagues. Early on
Dirk defuses most of the Hollywood narratives- he's not playing baseball
to fulfill any Mantle-esque debt to his father, or to lift his family
out of poverty like Strawberry, or to meet some sort of baseball
destiny. Hayhurst doesn't even write of himself as an accomplished
athlete- I laughed over his disastrous Spring Training Pitcher Fielding
It's humor and humanity that makes Hayhurst a compelling narrator.
His depression and paranoia are, at times, sparklingly and painfully
clear. But the worries are obstacles that can never really be overcome;
it's the chapters between the meltdowns on the mound that kept me
reading. I love the inside seat at Kangaroo Court, and I laughed at
Lars' joke about the octopus. And maybe I'm sentimental, but the scenes
of the bullpen scooping up the 3-year old and letting him be the center
of their world for an inning or two, and of Hayhurst giving his shoes
to the homeless man in Ohio were the most moving scenes in the book.
That's when Hayhurst stopped being a kid with a splendid but not
spectacular right arm, and started being human.
And in the end, if Bullpen Gospels falls into the Field of Dreams
trap- that every baseball story is ultimately about a father and a son-
it falls with a smile. Hardly a classic, yet well worth reading, I
though it was a fascinating look at life in the minor leagues.
(Yes, that's Hayhurst in the picture. 39.1IP in 2008 and 2009; I
don't know if qualifies as more than a cup of coffee, but the Show is