It’s not often that a truly candid portrayal of what it’s like trying to slog your way to the show makes its way into the mainstream. Yet, Dirk Hayhurst has accomplished just that in Out of My League – his second book about being a big leaguer after the acclaimed Bullpen Gospels. With great doses of wit and personal insight, this book is a perfect reminder of the truth which is often forgotten: ball players are human beings too.
Hayhurst was remarkably candid in the predecessor to OOML, speaking openly about his brother’s alcoholism, his father’s struggles with depression and his reservations towards fully embracing the clubhouse culture in baseball for personal and religious reasons. While the first book spent the majority of its time on Hayhurst’s ascent up the minor league ladder and the manner in which he dealt many of his personal demons, the second exclusively covers his time in Triple-A and his attempt to make the leap to Major League Baseball as a member of the San Diego Padres organization.
The tug of baseball on normal life becomes apparent early in the book as his relationship with his fiancée, Bonnie, becomes a key juxtaposition throughout the book. Her presence is a key anchor throughout the book as she provides motivation for potentially leaving the game—and his dream to become a major leaguer—behind in favor of a more conventional career and means of supporting a family.
In the interest of being candid, I’m a big Dirk Hayhurst fan. The Bullpen Gospels may be my favorite baseball related read of all time, the man created the Garfoose (Google it), and as most of his twitter followers know, he just comes off as an all-around good guy. Naturally, reading this book was high on my to do list.
Obviously there is a certain element of discretion in all of these tales as Hayhurst frequently uses nicknames to cover the real identities of players in his anecdotes. You have the occasional appearance of a familiar name, be it Trevor Hoffman, Chase Headley or another real life player. Though the truly intriguing ones are those whose identities are hidden with pseudonyms such as the infamous ‘Dallas’ with whom Dirk has many encounters.
Regardless of the names matching the characters, one fact is readily apparent throughout the text—it is a battle to make the leap, and one that requires a rationale you’d be hard pressed to find in any other line of work. For most of us, we congratulate friends and colleagues on their successes and triumphs be they in their work or personal lives. While a ballplayer may extend his congratulations to a friend on their call-up, it comes with a resentment that can only accompany the knowledge that a friend has blocked the dream you’ve been chasing.
Out of My League is a read for those who want a candid insight into the life of—assuming there is such a thing—the average ballplayer. For most players the line between following through on a lifelong dream and clinging to a false hope is nothing more than a blur. More than that, it is a look into the perseverance it takes to make life work. Readers, baseball fans or otherwise, will find themselves cheering for Dirk when he’s on top of his game, urging him on in his moments of doubt and booing those who stand in his way.
Make no mistake about it, this is a big league read.