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Out of My LeagueA Rookie's Survival in the Bigs
By DIRK HAYHURST
CITADEL PRESS BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Dirk Hayhurst
All right reserved.
Chapter One"It's dead, Dirk," she said, without even so much as a concerned look from the wheel as we drove. "You're just going to have to deal with it."
I dealt with her tactfully delivered news by letting my head fall into the passenger side window glass with a disparaging thunk. What the hell was I going to do for transportation now?
"Cars do that, honey, they just die," she added.
"Remind me to never leave you with a puppy," I said.
"Oh, for Christ's sake, it's a car. There are others out there."
"That car and I had memories!"
"I don't know what you want me tell you." She accelerated our currently living car onto the freeway as she spoke, heading south from the Akron-Canton Airport. "Your dad thought it was the fuel injectors or something. I think it just rusted through and croaked. Either way it would have cost more than what you paid for it to fix. Your dad sold it for scrap already."
"You sold my car!"
"It was dead! And your grandma said she could smell leaking gas. She demanded we remove it from her house, called every day until we did. Said it was going to blow up and kill her."
"Was it leaking gas?" I could envision my deranged grandmother crawling beneath my car punching holes in the gas tank to spite me. She doubled as my landlord during the off-season and used some Gestapo-style tactics to get me to do her bidding, threatening me with everything from eviction to prosecution. I wouldn't put it past her to practice sabotage.
"I don't know, that's what she said. We didn't check," said my mother.
"How could you not check?" I threw my hands up at the injustice.
"It doesn't matter! It's gone now. Dad got $150, since the tires were still good."
"My poor car ..." I imagined it being obediently led to a dark scrap yard someplace, getting patted on the hood one last time, then rolled into a vicious crushing machine while a fat man with a cigar laughed and counted out a wad of money with my grandma. "You let it die," I said to my mother. "I asked you to keep it safe for me and you got it killed. You're a car murderer!"
Mom, taking her eyes from the road to look at me for the first time in our conversation, simply said, "I'm glad you're home, sweetheart. Now shut up."
When I got off the plane that brought me home from the 2007 Double A championship season, it was as if the whole thing never happened. There was no ticker-tape parade. No flashbulbs or requests for autographs. No screaming fans, endorsement deals, or bonus paychecks. The big leagues didn't call and request my immediate promotion, and I wasn't mentioned on ESPN. There was just Mom, waiting impatiently for me in her car so she could taxi me home before she was late for work.
One may wonder how the elation that comes with jumping onto a pile of screaming teammates and uncorking fountains of Champagne to celebrate ultimate victory can fade away so quickly. That's because minor league championships are great, but they are still minor league. Once all the champagne is sprayed, the pictures are taken, and everyone's had a chance to make out with the trophy, it doesn't mean much. I was part of an event I could always be proud of, and Lord knows, winning feels a whole lot better than losing, but in the grand scheme of the minor league economy, my name in a record book was just that. I was still going to be living the next six months on my grandma's floor, looking for another source of income, getting ready for a new season while wondering what being a Double A champion really meant.
Such is the lot of a career minor league baseball player, because, even at its best, minor league baseball struggles to translate into a better quality of real-world life. Sure, there are wonderful moments like winning, the thrill of competition, and the joy of watching teammates twenty beers deep get really emotional about how much they love you at a championship party. You get to put on the jersey, lace up the spikes, and listen to John Fogerty croon out "Centerfield" all summer long. But the season always ends, for better or for worse, and that's when you find yourself face-to-face with a reality that tells you your car is pushing up daisies and your dad only got $150 for its tires.
Life seems so blissful when all you have to do is focus on the next pitch—assuming that next pitch doesn't get hit over the fence. When you are on field, living in the moment, it's easy to think all that matters is the here and now. Yet, when the pitching is done, the truth is revealed: league title or total defeat, the clock is always ticking, waiting for you to break into the big time or settle up the debt you made trying to get there. I had showered three times since my San Antonio Missions brethren and I celebrated our championship by soaking one another in cheap Champagne, but nothing got me clean like the cold, sobering splash of reality my mom gave me on the car ride home from the airport.
"So, do you think you're guaranteed a place on the team for next year?"
"I don't know, Mom." There was no way to know that.
"You don't think the championship made you more important to the club?"
"I don't know." Or that.
"Didn't they tell you what their plans are for you?"
"No." Or that.
"Did they tell you they couldn't have done it without you?"
"Well, what did they tell you?"
"Good job, we're proud of you. See you next year."
My mom paused in her onslaught of prying questions for a moment and then declared, "Well, that sucks."
"I thought it was all pretty cool until we started talking about it, actually."
"Oh. My. God. You are so depressing. You'd think you'd be happier after winning a championship. "
I caught myself before I could object to my mom's logic. Telling her she was doing that thing she does where she inadvertently sucks the pride from a situation wasn't going to work now since it hadn't worked during any of the other years I tried explaining it to her, so I said, "I'm just telling you what I know, Mom."
"This is why I read the Internet sites, you know. You never tell me anything."
"Whatever." I rolled my eyes.
"Fine, let's talk about something else then." My mom took a highway exit for the area of Canton where my grandma's house was located. "What are you going to do for a job?"
"I just got off the plane, Mom." And I was beginning to wonder if I could get back on it.
"I know, but you'll need a job if you want to get a car."
"I realize that."
"I suppose you can borrow your grandmother's car until you get one."
I deflated with a long, exasperated exhale at the thought of patrolling the streets in my grandmother's ark-like car-asaurous. It was a monster of steel and chrome that devoured economy parking like Tic Tacs and swilled down fuel like minor leaguers on cheap booze.
"Who do you have to impress? No one knows you're back," said my mom, noting my disgust.
"I have a date tomorrow."
"A girl!" she squealed. Meddling in the events of my baseball life was only secondary pleasure to the joy she took from meddling in my love life. "How is that even possible?"
"Thank you for being so confident in your son."
"I mean, how did you meet one from around here during the season? You've been gone all year."
"On eHarmony," I said.
"Oh, a technological romance." She nodded her head as if she thought this was what all the kids were doing these days. "What's her name?"
"Does she know you're a baseball player?"
"Did you tell her you sleep at your grandmother's yet?" My mom giggled.
"What do you think she'll say when you do?"
"I don't know."
"Is she a nice girl, I mean, not a stalker or something?"
"No, Mom, she's not a stalker."
"Where are you taking her out to?"
"I don't know yet."
"Well, if you need my advice, I'm always here." She smiled at me to let me know my questions were always welcome, though I knew I never had to ask her any to get her answers. "You can ask anything, honey, you know that. Even sex-related questions. I know you say you aren't having it, but you can still ask me if you're curious."
"Okay, Mom. That's enough."
"I think it would really help you relax if you did. You are so high-strung. Does Bonnie know how high-strung you are?"
"That's enough, now." I started humming something to tune her out.
"Has she had sex, or is she a religious type like you?"
"Okay, Mom, time for another subject change. How's Dad doing?"
My mom shut up at this. The glee of sucking details from me like some social vampire dissipated. "Don't ask," she said, looking back to the road.
"Why? What's wrong? I thought things were going well at home."
She said nothing.
Concerned, I turned to her, "Brak isn't drinking again, is he?"
"No, your brother kept his promise," said my mom. She looked like me trying to answer her questions.
"Then what is it?"
"We're here," she said, and spun the wheel.
My mom pulled the car into the driveway of my grandma's house and parked under the canopy of trees close to the garage. The leaves were turning in the autumn weather and had littered the driveway with reds and yellows. My grandma was vainly raking them up with a metal-fingered rake that scratched across the pavement of the drive. When we exited the car, I made my way over to my grandma and offered to hug her, which she accepted. It was a nice moment—maybe I was wrong to suspect her of punching holes in my deceased car's gas tank after all? When we finished our embrace, however, she thrust her rake at me and said, "Finish gathering up these leaves. When you're done, those stupid neighbors' dogs shit in my backyard again. The shovel is in the shed." Then she walked into the house.
"Well," said my mom. "Welcome home."
"Thanks." I said, holding the rake, which smelled faintly like gas.
"It's a place to live," said my mom with a shrug. "If you need anything, call me."
"I need a lot of things," I mumbled.
I unloaded my luggage, told my mom I loved her, then watched her pull out of the drive and make for work. I was home, if you could call it that, and I had a lot to figure out. I needed a job, transportation, a place to train, the name of a nice restaurant, and the courage to ask my grandmother if I could borrow her car. Yet, before all that could happen, I needed to finish raking the leaves from the driveway, then go shovel some dog shit.
Chapter TwoWomen are the best way to ruin a perfectly good career, or so the baseball lifers are fond of saying. Women have a way of changing your priorities, pulling your mind from the field of play and placing it into confusion. After a woman enters the equation, they say, the next thing a player knows he's quit the game to hold her purse and fetch her lattes—or, in my case, clean lattes off his pants.
Though Bonnie would say her most vivid memory of our first date was when she saw me for the first time after months of chatting via an eHarmony matchup, mine was when she spilled hot coffee on my lap. Aside from forgetting how to grip cups, she was so nervous to meet me she nearly forgot who she was. She kept shoveling gum in her mouth for fear of bad breath and forgot where she parked. She was a train wreck, which ironically, I found incredibly attractive. I made her nervous, she confessed, because I was handsome. This flattering sincerity made the clumsiness easy to forget. That, and she was left-handed, which for the sake of any possible future baseball-playing Hayhurst progeny deserved at least one more chance.
The second date was much better than the first. That was when we discovered our chemistry. The real Bonnie came out, and she was a sweet and genuine woman with energy and charisma and all the other things I never would have suspected from a girl who couldn't remember where her car was in a lot that held only twenty. And she was beautiful. I don't know why I wasn't stunned by this on the first date, maybe it was because I was preoccupied with collateral damage, but I couldn't miss it the second time around. She wore a yellow sundress with beads and bangles and sandals. Her brown hair was still light from the summer sun, and her face had the slightest hint of freckles around soft brown eyes. She brought a guitar with her and taught me how to play a few chords, interlacing her fingers with my own across the fret board.
With everything we did, she had fun, like a child who treated life as an adventure. Being with her was addictive, and when she left me that night, I was sad to see her go.
In time, we were meeting nearly every night we could see each other. She lived in Cleveland and I in Canton, which presented logistical bridges that only love could cross. Love and a crap job working at a local Circuit City, that is. I couldn't drive my grandma's car forever, not with the way it swilled fuel. The dating economy demanded I make some investments if I wanted to keep up the relationship. I took the little minor league savings I had accrued, bought a used Corolla, and committed myself to working at Circuit City for the holiday season. It wasn't the most common thing to see a pro athlete do, but it was the only way I could keep the car gassed up, and dates paid for.
Ironically, of all the things that Bonnie liked about me, baseball wasn't one of them. It was a bonus, she said, like icing on a six-foot-two, dark-haired, blue-eyed, likes-long-walks-on-the-beach cake. We shared the same faith, which was big because she was worried about getting matched with an Internet-spawned psychopathic killing machine. I told her that, historically speaking, there have been several psychos who believed in Jesus, but she told me if I gave her any trouble she'd kick me in the crotch and run—she told me it was what Jesus would do.
Though not the key pillar of our relationship at first, whenever the question came up of how things would get paid for, or why I never invited Bonnie over to my residence, or why I worked at Circuit City, the line always traced back to the same point: baseball. As things got more serious, the role baseball played in my life became more apparent to her, and to me. Everything I did, I did with the game in mind. It was my first love and it was a commitment I had to honor, hoping that Bonnie would understand. She did, or at least she did her best to look the part. She supported me and encouraged me, but people have a much easier time understanding stuff when you're right next to them explaining it. In two months' time I'd be gone, out chasing the dream of playing in the big leagues while Bonnie would still be here waiting on me. If it wasn't for the fact that it was so wonderful, I'd say it was unfortunate that Bonnie and I liked each other so much because no matter how good things were right now, there was no way she was going to avoid pain by being my girlfriend, or I by being her boyfriend.
Dating a baseball player is much more complicated than dating your average Joe, and dating me was more complicated still. I had baggage in the shape of a crazy old woman and a family with a past history of violence and alcohol abuse. Bonnie hadn't met any of them yet, but that was what today was supposed to be about: lunch with Grandma and coffee with my parents. I had resisted the idea of her meeting my family for as long as I could, but I knew, even from the short time we were with each other, that Bonnie and I would be heading toward bigger decisions. We didn't have a lot of time together, so she deserved to know what was ahead of her before committing to a year of holding her breath on her dreams while I chased mine.
The first major obstacle in front of any kind of relationship Bonnie and I might have was currently passed out in her recliner, head lolling sideways, dentures roaming freely about her gaping mouth while she sucked air. This was Bonnie's first official encounter with the eldest woman in my family, the same woman I called landlord, and it started to the soothing sound of a ninety-year-old with sleep apnea gasping for air, only to find it, then fart.
Excerpted from Out of My League by DIRK HAYHURST Copyright © 2012 by Dirk Hayhurst. Excerpted by permission of CITADEL PRESS BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I discovered the genius writing of Dirk Hayhurst last summer while I was slaving away for an independent baseball team. I had always enjoyed baseball but had never read a book about it, despite being in sports management. I picked up "The Bullpen Gospels" from my library and read it in two days. I was hooked. When I heard "Out of My League" was coming out, I didn't think he'd be able to top his first book. He did. Hayhurst is incredibly open and honest throughout the book; it’s a breath of fresh air. As fans, we rarely get to hear about this side of professional athletes; we generally only hear about the success they have, not the day-to-day physical and mental struggles. He shares all of his experiences, all the ups and downs not just of trying to make it to the big leagues, but the ups and downs of his life. I laughed uncontrollably during his girlfriend Bonnie’s first encounter with Hayhurst’s senile grandma in one chapter, only to have my emotions do a complete 180-degree turn a couple chapters later when he took her to his parents’ house to meet with them for the first time as well, a visit that ended in disaster. The entire book is an emotional rollercoaster. You mentally cheer for Hayhurst when he succeeds and want to encourage him when he’s going through tough times. It’s so well-written, entertaining, and impossible to put down. When I finished the book, I was happy for Hayhurst’s success both professionally and personally, but I immediately wanted another book. Until the next one is released, I’ll just follow his journey on Twitter and his blog.
OUT OF MY LEAGUE by Dirk Hayhurst This book is written by and spoken from Dirk's point of view as he is the one going through all of it. Talk of him growing up in his family where his dad would help him by coaching in baseball. Over time it's all Dirk wants to do. Being in the minor league hasn't amounted to a big pay check and because of what he shows on the mound he is moved to the major league where things turn around ten fold for him. Liked how he handled the let down of losing a game and that others could see it also. Love the guy talk and pranks along the way. A man would super really love this book as they could relate more to the things that happen. I just like baseball so the story line was interesting to keep me reading through 400 pages. A plus was the romance to Bonnie and how the book and season follows her as well in every day life. Besides traveling to different new places to me, there is also a lot I was able to learn. The most funnier things were the beer bag and princess knapsack.
Dirk Hayhurst follows up The Bullpen Gospels with an outstanding continuation in OOML. In this book, DH continues his rough ride thru the Padres system, but also has to deal with his family AND maintain his relationship with his new girlfriend Bonnie. He tells his story in a brutally honest way & we see him mature as both player and man as the season progresses. The awe he feels at finally being called up jumps out at you; i could see myself acting just like he does. As a baseball fan, I enjoyed reading about what MLB life is really like, including the Candy Bag and other forms of rookie hazing. I had many laughs reading the book & I look forward to a potential 3rd book.
Dirk Hayhurst acknowledges in his author notes that OUT OF MY LEAGUE is not a baseball tell-all. His point is not to “smear his fellow players or air the sport’s dirty laundry”. He also doesn’t focus on the sport’s technicalities which makes the book enjoyable by all, not just baseball fans. Even so, there are plenty of tales of the bizarre and funny happenings, the diverse personalities in the clubhouse, the odd rituals and the tremendously different lives of minor and major league players. He shares entertaining anecdotes as well as heartfelt personal stories. Hayhurst is an anomaly among the players because of his personal moral beliefs and takes a lot of grief for it. He plays along to get along with the rookie hazing but doesn’t let peer pressure cause him to compromise his beliefs. His courage in this is inspiring. He is starkly honest about his flawed relationship with his family and his personal insecurities. He shares the sweet tale of meeting, courting and marrying his wife, Bonnie. At times laugh out loud funny and at others almost depressing, the book is entertaining from start to finish. Rating: 4.0 Heat Rating: Mild: Mild detailed scenes of intimacy, mild violence or profanity. Reviewed By: Jeanne Stone-Hunter for My Book Addiction and More
Out of My League is hilarious, happy, sad and at most of all brutally honest. The job of a pitcher can't be easy. The pressure is constant as each time you take the mound you, your teammates, coaches and fans expect near perfection. Dirk Hayhurst provides a great description of the pressures of the job and the many ways to distract yourself while waiting to work. Having been a professional drummer most of my life I often heard the statement, "but you PLAY drums." I imagine most people don't understand the pressures, the hard work and the time put in to develop your skill to a top level. I can relate to the pressure and the silliness to relieve the pressure. All the while you work, life goes on around you and sometimes it's hard to remember what's important. Enjoy life and read this book! I can't wait for the next one to be published.
It’s arguable that Hayhurst is a better writer than pitcher. Seamlessly overlapping the final chapter of the ‘The Bullpen Gospels’, ‘Out of My League’ chronicles Dirk’s jump from triple AAA to the Majors. He shares his fascination with the chasm between the minors and the bigs, how big money changes team-mates he’s known for years, and holds nothing back in describing his fear of failure on the big stage. It’s riveting reading. He also brings the same unblinking honestly to his budding romance and the wedding that follows. A phone call on his honeymoon sets-up what promises to be a third book in the series.
Bought this book immediately after reading Hayhursts first book "The Bullpen Gospels", and found it to be even better than the first. This book continues on from where "Gospels" ends, following Hayhursts journey from the minor league system to (finally) the majors. As an avid baseball fan, and longtime minor league season ticket holder, I was somewhat aware of the competitive difficulty a player has in his trek to the major leagues...or I thought I was aware. After reading this book, I am now more acutely aware of how tough things are and what players go through. With the start of the baseball season only a couple of weeks away, I will go into the season with a new perspective on the game, and more respect for the players, especially at the AAA level. The book is at times touching and funny, and occasionally a little uncomfortable to read, especially when it focuses on Hayhursts family. It is a"must read" for all baseball fans. I hope Hayhurst has a third book on the way to start from where this one ends.
After reading and enjoying Mr. Hayhurt's columns and his first book I was very anxious to read this one also. As always, blatantly honest, telling his story warts and all, it was a very fast read for me. I laughed out loud at a few parts, and really felt for his family at others. This book continues to show that the Baseball players that we tend to put on so high are flawed just like the rest of us. If you love Baseball or just love reading about people pressing on for success you will love this book. Go Garfoose!
In March 2012, I was intrigued by the cover of "Out of My League" on the new release shelf at my local B&N store. A man standing on the pitcher's mound, the glare of stadium lights, and the word "Survival" popped out at me. I opened the book and began skimming through the first chapter... then devoured the rest at home in two days. Like many children in the Midwest, I played baseball & watched it on tv, and wondered what it would be like to play with "my name in lights". Dirk Hayhurst eloquently -- and startlingly-- takes us behind the scenes. He shares the pain of years of preparation and small paychecks, while seeing his peers called up to The Bigs before him. He openly shares his home life, doubts, and dreams, as well as how he adjusted to the pressure of having a BIG dream come true. Hayhurst also tastefully weaves in the story of meeting and marrying his wife during that turbulent year. All of these are acts of courage to show us not only the antics in the locker rooms and manager's offices, but also unmasking the imperfect yet loving man underneath the jersey. As a woman, I appreciated "listening in" on the locker room, bus, and private jet scenes. Many times I laughed aloud at the discussions and Dirk's playful & vivid descriptions of the actions. Hayhurst also reveals the sometimes-shocking behavior of himself and the players, and this adds to the authenticity of the experience while avoiding being sleazy. I admire his boundary of telling an accurate story while avoiding trashing any individual's reputation.
An excellent read. Full of anecdotes from the club house to life off the field. Out of My League is a highly relatable memoir of a life spent pursuing one thing only to realize it might not be the dream the author thought it was. While the focus is on baseball, it's easy to see your life and career in similar circumstances. Why do I work so hard and what do I work for? What really matters when my career is over? You'll laugh, you'll cry and you'll wonder what the hell a garfoose is.
I've heard good things about The Bullpen Gospels, and based on my experience with this book, I'm definitely going to check it out.
A hillarious book a great read
As a student of the human condition, I was delighted in my teens when I realized that my passion for baseball was nicely served by reading good baseball books. I have now read my favorite baseball story of the past ten or fifteen years. Perhaps, as time goes by, Out of My League may even own the top spot. What baseball pitcher/writer Dirk Hayhurst has produced hits you in the gut, tickles your funny bone, perhaps makes you cry, and causes you to wonder how mere human beings could have produced such a perfect game of inches as embodied by baseball. Oh… Some say football has eclipsed the diamond sport, but that is only true in the sense of mankind’s constant war on the enemies of life; football being a microcosm of any kind of life and death struggle. But baseball… That’s the hope of mankind. The embodiment of our better angels. A perfect stand-in for the hopes and dreams of any boy. In a lot cases, any girl--marry a ballplayer; play softball, be a devoted Little League mom. There is this special grip that baseball has on the American psyche. In Hayhurst’s book, against all odds, he finds his soulmate, Bonnie, on an Internet dating site. This could mean escaping the air mattress on the floor of his loony grandmother’s basement. This could help him to find a way to stabilize his dysfunctional parents’ life—if Bonnie, who soon becomes his fiancée has her way, Dirk will come to grips with that issue. But all of this hinges on finding a way to make “The Show.” The relentless pursuit of a lifelong dream! The burning drive to make it to the Bigs! This is the power of Dirk Hayhurst’s Out of My League. This book will stay with me until I’m delivered to the undertaker!