Friday, March 30, 2012

"Out of My League" by Dirk Hayhurst

I finished a few days ago reading Out of My League by former MLB pitcher Dirk Hayhurst and thought it pretty compelling.

The book follows up on The Bullpen Gospels from Hayhurst (which I reviewed here) and chronicles the author's following season experiences. Just as the first book was about more than playing baseball, Out of My League is best when covering Hayhurst's life in relation to his parents and fiancee as well as his transition to the Big Leagues.

Hayhurst details MLB as a challenging place socially where each rookie (while highly paid) is expected to: be deferential to veterans, show that they belong, not act entitled and follow a host of other "unwritten rules" that they're not supposed to ask about, but rather "figure out with experience." Perhaps it was a function of the team playing out a losing season (and might have been exacerbated by Hayhurst not being drafted highly), but the environment described seemed to not really gear towards succeeding. The point is made in the book that playing well can change everything, but it did seem a pretty lousy situation for someone to be called up into and then try to find footing both on and off the field.

This writing about struggling in the Major Leagues was made all the more profound with Hayhurst describing the transition in relation to people outside the game. The story was told of him giving up a long bomb to Manny Ramirez and his mom viewing it as something exciting because he got on SportsCenter (while in crushing defeat). Additionally, acquaintances would either want something from him (tickets, signed baseballs, etc) or to simply be part of the discussion of how great it must be in the Big Leagues. There's also a compelling story of Hayhurst unloading on his fiancee (now wife) after a rough game... and her reaction in pointing out how the author was letting this realization of a lifelong dream change him for the worse.

On the whole topic of baseball-related writing, I found surprising that the recent April 2 issue of Sports Illustrated had both a (very good) story by L. Jon Wertheim on book-writing Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey and a small piece on recent baseball books, but no mention of Hayhurst's book. It really was very solid writing from him that details how there's much more going with baseball players than we as fans see on the field.