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The Bullpen Gospelsby Dirk Hayhurst
Dirk Hayhurst may well be the antithesis of the stereotypical athlete, and his book, The Bullpen Gospels, is unlike any other sports memoir of late. Chronicling the uncertain and often frustrating life of a professional ballplayer as he ascends and descends the minor league ranks, The Bullpen Gospels is more than just another tale of big league aspirations. Already crowned as one of the finest baseball books ever written, Hayhurst's autobiography really does live up to all the hype.
Easily the funniest book I have read in years, The Bullpen Gospels is also tragic, poignant, touching, and hopeful. The story is a personal one, and nowhere does Hayhurst veer into the realm of gossip. With remarkable candor and no small amount of self-deprecation, Hayhurst humbly and entertainingly conveys his tale. As probably one of the only teetotaling virgins ever to toe the rubber, Hayhurst's outlook on both baseball and life are far from what one would expect of the average athlete. Troubled by a tumultuous home life and plagued by doubts about his stalling career, Hayhurst somehow maintains both tenacity and a sense of humor.
Save for the absolutely wretched cover (pinstripes, really? as a Padre? or a Blue Jay?), The Bullpen Gospels is an exceptional work. Hayhurst has already announced plans for another book, and if his on-field talent can keep pace with his writing, he ought to be moonlighting as an author for some time to come. Lots of well-worn adjectives could be employed to describe how wonderful The Bullpen Gospels really is, but it's the combination of humor, humility, and humanity that make it one of the year's great reads.
(For the Oregon reader, it should be noted that Mr. Hayhurst used to play for our own beloved Portland Beavers, where he was honored as the 2008 Community Player of the Year).
From The Bullpen Gospels:
Baseball doesn't have any intrinsic power. It only has what people give to it. For some, the man who plays is a superhero, and he can do great things. For some, the man who plays is an obstacle who must get out of the way. Is baseball as important as food, knowledge, care, or a dry pair of boots? Is it as important as some of the things that pass by us in everyday life? I don't think so. Can it inspire, motivate, and call us to something greater than ourselves? Absolutely. The burden of the player isn't to achieve greatness, but to give the feeling of it to everyone he encounters. It was wrong of me even to try to separate life and the game. They were intertwined, meant to be, one affecting the other, one teaching the other, even when the mixture occasionally blows up. It takes a real person, one who understands himself, to use the tool of baseball for something good. For that person, as long as he has a jersey on his back, he has a chance.
Recommended by Jeremy, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the humble heights of a Class-A pitcher's mound to the deflating lows of sleeping on his gun-toting grandmother's air mattress, veteran reliever Dirk Hayhurst steps out of the bullpen to deliver the best pitch of his career--a raw, unflinching and surprisingly moving account of his life in the minors.
I enjoyed the visualizations, maybe a little too much, and would stop only when I felt I'd centered myself...or after one of my teammates hit me in the nuts with the rosin bag while my eyes were closed.
Hilariously self-effacing and brutally honest, Hayhurst captures the absurdities, the grim realities, and the occasional nuggets of hard-won wisdom culled from four seasons in the minors. Whether training tarantulas to protect his room from thieving employees in a backwater hotel, watching the raging battles fought between his partially paralyzed father and his alcoholic brother, or absorbing the gentle mockery of some not-quite-starstruck schoolchildren, Dirk reveals a side of baseball, and life, rarely seen on ESPN.
My career has crash-landed on the floor of my grandma's old sewing room. If this is a dream come true, then dreams smell a lot like mothballs and Bengay.
Somewhere between Bull Durham and The Rookie, The Bullpen Gospels takes an unforgettable trot around the inglorious base paths of minor league baseball, where an inch separates a ball from a strike, and a razor-thin margin can be the difference between The Show or a long trip home.
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