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. 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. Just as Jim Bouton pulled back the curtain on life inside the Major Leagues in Ball Four, Hayhurst has crafted a complete and encompassing vision of life as a minor leaguer.
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It bubbles out of them like a force of nature. The teacher put her hand up and started counting. What little attention they had dedicated to their teacher was lost in the fantasy world of meeting a real, live, pro baseball player.
The kids spun around to face me as if they expected to see Batman standing in the doorway. Instead, they go me. Appearances are organized by our respective teams, scheduled in advance, and then dangled in front of players in hopes one may bite.
Appearances are optional, and most players opt out. Not every appearance is judging a bikini contest, sometimes we stand outside used car dealerships or walk around a grocery store with a mascot named Hector the Smoke Detector. A few bucks here, a gift card there, something to make it worthwhile. Still, not every appearance gets a volunteer, no matter how scrumptious the bait attached to it. Speaking engagements are avoided the most, as many baseball players detest talking in front of people longer then they absolutely must.
Front office interns will literally beg players to do these events. I actually wanted to come to this one, I even shaved for it. I wanted to talk with these kids about the things I felt really mattered. I practiced my little speech the night before, looking up famous historical figures and interesting facts to stump my crowd with.
My little sermon of insightfulness, packed full of transcendent truth. I was going to make the teachers wet their pants at how a baseball player could speak with such passion about things not baseball. I guess it makes sense if you look at it from their perspective. Pro sports undermine the academic mantra. Look at how much money sports scholarships award compared to academic ones.
I dated a girl back in my high school days who was as smart as a Star Trek computer and she had to work two jobs on top if her scholarships to make enough for school.
I just had to throw a little white ball. Sports are bigger then academics in our culture. Really, I do. I wish academic achievement were more glorious. Ironically, that message works best coming out of the mouth of a player? Well, stupid or not, I was going to be the player who said it today.
I was going to make academics relevant. At this jaded juncture in my career, I had plenty of ammo to shoot at sports. There was just one, small problem. No one told me I was going to be speaking with third graders. I stood staring back at them like Frankenstein.
All this high-powered introspection would fly right over their heads. These are the same patch of rug-rats that come down and scream at me for baseballs until I want to strangle their parents. One kid had his finger so far up his nose I he could have been picking his brain. I stood nervously at the front of the class like I was going to be asked to spell something. The kids stared dreamy eyed at me, or at least at my uniform top- my super hero costume to them. I smoothed it down and played nervously with the bottom of its fabric.
I plopped onto it, knees hunched up to my chest. All the kids giggled, I giggled too, it was pretty funny, and I felt like Shrek. I made a silly face at them, accentuating my discomfort and they laughed some more. I felt more relaxed, they were just kids after all. The teacher brought me a big chair and I gladly took it. I still watch Sponge Bob and buy Transformers toys. How about you, how hard do you throw? She seemed genuinely worried about me being afraid out there. I looked down at her and smiled.
You could tell he was proud of himself for saying it, like he does post game interviews all the time. Simplifying it purposefully for them made me aware of all the information I was leaving out. I was sitting there, focused on my negatives, even dragging them out to the mound with me.
Here was this innocent face, worried about being afraid, looking up at me seeing only positives. I was bigger then baseball to her. I was an avatar of something great, wielding a power reserved only for those who do a job like this. I pointed to one of the kids and asked why he wanted to be a big leaguer. I can understand that. I shifted in my seat and acted confused.
I want to be ninja! They really seemed to care about what I had to say. It may not have been for the deep reasons I had in mind when I showed up here today, but they cared nonetheless. I went with it. There are lots of things that are more important then baseball.
The kids panicked, their shock stricken faces contorted in horror as if they expected a band a baseball snatchers to burst in the room with Dr. Seuss style equipment and suck all the joy out of them.
I promise. You see the world could keep spinning if there were no more baseball players, however, it may very well stop if there were no more doctors, or scientist, or peacemakers, or teachers. But, think of some of the other professions out there that have changed the very face of the world. You hear about baseball players on the news all the time, but what about this guy?
The Bullpen Gospels, The Lost Chapters #1
ISBN: Chapter One I toed the rubber, turning my foot to that unique angle that marks my set position-a deep breath, shoulder wiggle, and complete focus. Ball in glove, locked and loaded. You can do this, you will do this. I felt invincible. I felt as if I should be in a sports drink commercial. I was dominating this team, a complete force of nature punishing them from all angles, like throwing to blindfolded children.
The Bullpen Gospels
It bubbles out of them like a force of nature. The teacher put her hand up and started counting. What little attention they had dedicated to their teacher was lost in the fantasy world of meeting a real, live, pro baseball player. The kids spun around to face me as if they expected to see Batman standing in the doorway. Instead, they go me. Appearances are organized by our respective teams, scheduled in advance, and then dangled in front of players in hopes one may bite.