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The Bullpen Gospels: A Non-Prospect's Pursuit of the Major Leagues and the Meaning of Life Paperback – April 1, 2010
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Hilarious, Poignant, a really enjoyable read. --Bob Costas
A true picture of baseball. --Tim McCarver
Dirk Hayhurst has written a fascinating, funny and honest account on life in the minor leagues. I loved it. --Tim Kurkjian, Senior Writer, analyst/reporter ESPN television
The Bullpen Gospels is a rollicking good bus ride of a book. --Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated
Bull Durham meets Ball Four. --Ron Neyer, ESPN.com
Fascinating. . . a perspective that fans rarely see. --Trevor Hoffman, pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers
He has a message to deliver about the things that matter in life--and those that don't. And he offers sage observations about the nature of celebrity and ambition, forgiveness and family. . . . Mr. Hayhurst is already a writer, maybe even a major-league prospect. --Wall Street Journal
If Holden Caulfield could dial up his fastball to 90 mph, he might have written this funny, touching memoir about a ballplayer at a career--and life--crossroads. He might have called it 'Pitcher in the Rye.' Instead, he left it to Dirk Hayhurst, the only writer in the business who can make you laugh, make you cry and strike out Ryan Howard. --King Kaufman, Salon
The Bullpen Gospels is a funny bone-tickling, tear duct-stimulating, feel-good story that will leave die-hard baseball fans--and die-hard human beings, for that matter--well, feeling good. --Bob Mitchell, author of Once Upon a Fastball --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Author
Best Baseball Autobiography Since Bouton?
Dirk Hayhurst's description of himself for the author's ID in his upcoming book The Bullpen Gospels reads in part, "Dirk is a former member of the San Diego Padres, and after this book gets printed, a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays."
I'm not sure he's correct. In fact, I'm not sure that in these times when so many fans feel like they're constantly having the wool pulled over their eyes by athletes ill-equipped for the attempt, if Hayhurst's constant honesty, his remarkable candor, his drumbeat of unadorned confessed self-doubt, and his seamless writing, won't resonate through the sport like the first true wonderful day of spring when the game and the weather finally reassure you that winter has been beaten back, at least for a season.
In fact, I'm not sure that he hasn't written the best baseball autobiography since Jim Bouton's Ball Four. For Hayhurst, who bombed as a starter for the Padres in 2008 and then showed promise out of the Jays' bullpen the season past, has written what Bouton wrote, and what a decade before Bouton, what Jim Brosnan wrote - a book that is seemingly about baseball but which, as you read further and further into it, is obviously much bigger than that. These are books about life: struggle, confusion, purpose, purposelessness, and the startling realization that achievement and failure are nearly-identical twins, one which gnaws and deadens, the other which just as often produces not elation but a tinny, empty sound.
Brosnan's achievement, in The Long Season and Pennant Race, was to introduce to a world which previously had no information of any kind on the subject, the concept of athlete as human being. What did he have to do when demoted, or traded? What happened when management changed? Was there a Mrs. Athlete, and could they share a martini now and again? (answer: You bet).
Bouton's breakthrough was to show the concept of athlete as flawed human being. Too many martinis, some of them shared with women other than Mrs. Athlete. Athletes who might not have been geniuses on the field or off, but who seemed invariably managed and coached by men even less intelligent. The struggle to self-start as one's team sank from optimism, to contention, to inconsistency, to irrelevance, to embarrassment. And yet, were they enjoying themselves, did their lives change for the better, was being an athlete fun? (answer: You bet).
And now here is Hayhurst, who may single-handedly steer baseball away from the two decades-long vise grip of Sport-As-Skill-Development. Since my own childhood, we have ever-increasingly devalued every major leaguer but the superstar. Late in the last century we began to devalue every minor leaguer but the top draft choice. If you don't make it into somebody's Top Prospects list, you might as well not exist. Dirk Hayhurst is writing of his days, his months, his years, as far away from the Top Prospects lists as imaginable. He is, in The Bullpen Gospels, often the last man on an A-ball pitching staff, and trying to answer a series of successively worsening questions cascading from the simplest of them: Why?
This, of course, is why the book transcends the game. It's not just Dirk Hayhurst's existential doubt about whether he'll reach the majors or why he's still trying or if he shouldn't be helping the homeless instead of worrying about getting the last out of a seven-run inning. He is experiencing the crisis of reality through which we all pass, often daily: when our dreams about life crash head first into its realities, what the hell are we supposed to do then?
Thus The Bullpen Gospels is a baseball book the way "Is That All There Is?" is a Leiber-Stoller pop song by Peggy Lee from 1969. It is the primordial battle of hope and faith and inspiration versus disillusionment and rust and inertia.
Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? But of course therein lies the delightful twist: like Brosnan and Bouton before him, Hayhurst repeatedly rediscovers the absurd hilarity of it all, and the book is consistently laugh-out-loud funny. And like all great artists, he pulls back curtains we never thought to investigate: from how assiduously minor leaguers debate which "Come-out songs" they will choose or which numbers they will wear, to the pecking order of seat locations on the ever-infamous bush league bus trip.
My favorite is probably the mechanics of something the average reader will have never heard of before, let alone have contemplated. It's "the host family" - the living arrangements by which the non-first-rounders survive their seasons in the minors. Hayhurst hilariously defines such temporary homes as ranging from Wackford Squeers' Dotheboys Hall, to the visitations from In Cold Blood.
It doesn't hurt that Hayhurst is a fluid and gifted writer, whose prose can take off like a jet and compel you to read for half an hour more than you have. He populates the pages of The Bullpen Gospels with teammates, some identified, some amalgamated, some under aliases - and if the book takes off, ripping the Hayhurstian masks off the more colorful ones may become a low-key hobby after the book is published on March 30th.
The reaction will be fascinating to see. In 1970, my father endured my clamoring and bought Ball Four and read it himself before handing it to me: "I know you know all these words. Just don't use them around the house. Read this carefully, there's a lot of truth in here." But ever since, we fans have been bombarded for decades by altered versions of truth, all of them writ large and desperately trying to impress us with their essential-ness. Baseball books have tended to focus only on the big, and to try to make it bigger still. We've gone from the unlikely accuracy of Jose Canseco's slimy indictment of the steroid era, through the analyze-all-the-damn-fun-out-of-the-game-why-don't-you tone of Moneyball and its imitators, through what may in retrospect be seen as a Hayhurst-precursor in Matt McCarthy's fraudulent Odd Man Out, through dozens of historical works insisting everything that has ever happened in baseball has re-shaped the nation - Jackie Robinson (yes), the 1951 N.L. pennant race (very possibly), the 1912 World Series (no way).
Here, instead, will be a modest book by a modest relief pitcher who has appeared in the modest total of 25 major league games presenting what the modest author thinks (incorrectly) is only modest truth. He has yet to get his own major league baseball card and as I write this there are exactly two of his souvenirs available on eBay and one of them is a photo for $6.99 ("Or Best Offer"). His preface warns you if you seek scandal or steroids, look elsewhere, and the only bold face name in the whole 340 pages, Trevor Hoffman, comes across as a low-key gentleman.
And yet there in the prologue Hayhurst offers a key to what he has written and why, self-guidance to which he sticks pretty neatly: "I also believe there is more to the game than just baseball. For all the great things baseball is, there are some things it is absolutely not. And that is what this story is all about."
Of course, just as Bouton's exposure of the real flaws of the real men who played baseball in 1969 made them even more appealing than the phony deities into which they'd been transformed, the great things are made somehow greater by how well Hayhurst contextualizes them, how honestly he tells his story, and how vividly he takes us inside his world.
-- Keith Olbermann
More About the Author
Dirk was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 8th round of the 2003 amateur player draft. He signed as a senior in college at Kent State University, put his communication degree on hold, and set off to the fabled Northwest League to become a Eugene Emerald.
After 6 years of toiling in the minors, playing for the Eugene Emeralds, Fort Wayne Wizards, Lake Elsinore Storm, Mobile BayBears, San Antonio Missions, and Portland Beavers, Dirk emerged in the big leagues with San Diego to start against the San Fransico Giants on August, 23, 2008. His performance in that start was unremarkable, but the story between the two aforementioned dates is not.
Dirk's literary work was first featured atÂ baseballamerica.com, where he wroteÂ The Non-Prospect DiariesÂ (nowÂ The Bullpen Gospels,Â in connection with his book), a blog about the other side of the baseball dream.Â At the time Dirk had no idea he would someday become a big leaguer, and the column was Dirk's way of keeping perspective in the midst of all the crazy things he encountered on the minor league trail. As it would happen,Â The Non-Prospect DiariesÂ became so popular he was approached by several newspapers, including that of his home town,Â The CantonRepository,Â where he began a column calledÂ The Bullpen Gospels.Â Only one year (and several thousand readers) later, Dirk was not only knocking on the door of the big leagues but in discussions to write a book as well.
Dirk's first book,Â The Bullpen Gospels, came out on March 30, 2010 and was met with a surge of acclaim from all manner of key figures, such as Keith Olbermann, Bob Costas, Jayson Stark, Tim McCarver, Tom Verducci, and several esteemed print sources like,Â The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, The Boston Globe, and the list goes on. Out Of My League, the sequel to The Bullpen Gospels, about Dirk's 40 days and nights as a rookie in the Big leagues, was also a best seller and has earned Dirk the title of "best author to wear baseball uniform" according the New York Times. Dirk wrote a follow up to Out Of My League via an Ebook companion titled Wild Pitches. Bigger Than The Game is the 3rd book in what is now known as the Bullpen Gospels trilogy and considered by many to be his most important contribution to baseball writing.
In 2012, Dirk started his third professional career as a professional broadcaster and baseball analyst. Dirk has became a contributor for ESPN, SportsNet, TSN, the Olbermann Show on ESPN 2, and a panelist on TBS's coverage of the MLB post season. Dirk is also a regular guest of various MLB related shows around the country.
****Praise for Dirk Hayhurst's Writing****
"Sharp insights and searing honesty about depression, addiction, and baseball"
--Tyler Kepner, The New York Times.
"By writing courageously about mental health and insightfully about the rise of social media, Hayhurst has done more than take us inside our national pastime. He's provided us with a window to our national consciousness. BIGGER THAN THE GAME represents Hayhurst's thought-provoking legacy to the sport."
--John Paul Morosi, Fox Sports.
"Hayhurst's book delves deeper into what happens when a player is broken physically, but it goes a step further, detailing what can happen when a player is also broken mentally. This is a rare treat, and would be essential reading for this fact alone, even if the tale was not well conveyed. However, the book is an incredibly entertaining rollercoaster ride."
--The Hardball Times
"Dirk Hayhurst has a keen eye for finding the human side in the business-oriented world of professional baseball, something he's demonstrated in his excellent books. Largely based on his own experiences, but fuelled by the power of his observations, Bigger Than the Game gives readers a more insightful look at the game."
--Shi Davidi, Toronto Blue Jays beat writer for Sportsnet.ca
"Bigger Than The Game not only adds to Dirk Hayhurst's pedigree as a writer; it explores uncharted baseball waters with the unique, observant, entertaining eye Hayhurst is famous for. A must read."
--Jeff Blair, columnist for The Globe And Mail, author of Full Count: Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball
"Dirk Hayhurst Cements His Baseball Legacy with Bigger Than the Game"
--Tyler Duma, Bleacher Report.
"Even more than he did in The Bullpen Gospels, Dirk Hayhurst teaches us here what happens when a 'dream career' collides with reality. There is such universality in his struggles, that if by the book's end you don't become him in your mind, there's probably something wrong with your heart."
"We all know the story of the wide-eyed rookie just happy to reach the major leagues. Problem is, there's so much more to it. Dirk Hayhurst takes us along on his journey from fringe prospect to major leaguer, with its exhilarating highs but also its punishing lows. The ride is gripping, revealing--and not at all what you'd expect. The author peels back his evolution as a person and a player, ranging far from the field yet showing compelling sides of the game that fans rarely see."
--Tyler Kepner, The New York Times
"Once again, Dirk Hayhurst brings readers into a world they rarely see: the hardscrabble world of minor-league baseball. It is a world full of political drama, financial stress and daily heartache. These are players you rarely hear about, players who rarely become rich or famous. Most, in fact, face the same kinds of struggles as the rest of us."
--Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
"Dirk Hayhurst has done it again. His second book is as good if not better than his first. Turns out he's a starter and a closer."
--Tim Kurkjian, ESPN
"Baseball is a game governed by countless rules, none bigger than this one: Don't over think it. Dirk Hayhurst takes us down the rabbit hole that is his mind, to a place where that rule is constantly violated, every decision, every move, every breath over thought. In the process, he provides a brutally honest take on life in the majors--the oversized ballparks, hotel rooms, and personalities, but also the self-doubt, loneliness, and despair. I laughed, I cried, I even learned how to doctor a baseball."
--Jonah Keri, author of The Extra 2%
"Out of My League is no mere sequel to The Bullpen Gospels. Yes, Hayhurst continues to chronicle his journey through the good, bad, absurd, mundane and often harrowing world of professional baseball, and yes his excellent writing continues to be hilarious, touching, illuminating and poignant. But this is more than a baseball book. It's the second -- and hopefully not the last -- chapter of a larger story of a man learning that it's possible to grip a baseball without it gripping him."
--Craig Calcaterra, NBC Sports.com
"Dirk Hayhurst manages to bring an outsider's point of view to the baseball world, even while reaching the major leagues for the first time. It's never too inside baseball, even though it is literally from inside baseball."
--John Manuel, Editor, Baseball America
"Hayhurst has done it again. I was blown away by every page, every chapter, every twist, every turn. I kept thinking that if I could only pitch as well as Dirk can write, I might have more Cy Youngs than Greg Maddux."
--Jayson Stark, ESPN.com
"Once again, Hayhurst delivers an entertaining story for more than just sports fans. Baseball provides the backdrop, but this is about life, relationships and the sacrifices made to pursue a dream. Hayhurst's unique storytelling style makes for another memorable read."
--Jordan Bastian, MLB.com
"In Dirk Hayhurst's funny, earthy, touching new book, he finally makes it to a big-league mound. As a writer, he's been throwing strikes in the Show for a while now, and "Out of My League" is another quality start."
--King Kaufman, Bleacher Report
"The most candid portrayal of life as a professional athlete I've ever seen. Out of My League is a must for anyone who has dreamed of making the Major Leagues and has wondered what they missed."
--Michael Dolan, Editor-in-Chief, Athletes Quarterly
"Hayhurst isn't afraid to tell it like it is. He has a genuine gift for telling the stories of his life in such a way that they reveal profound truths. I find his writing both entertaining and thought provoking... unlike his fastball."
--Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays All-Star
"By the time you finish OUT OF MY LEAGUE -- which is so compulsively readable and enjoyable that it could be the same day you start - you'll feel like you've just sat with an old pal who clawed his way into the bigs and couldn't wait to tell you everything about the experience. Apparently it's not enough for him to be a major league pitcher; Dirk has to be a fantastic writer, too. This is because God is cruel and unfair. You, however, are lucky: you get to read OUT OF MY LEAGUE."
--Matt Fraction, Marvel Comics
"After many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years spent in the bullpen, I can verify that this is a true picture of baseball."
"One of the funniest baseball books since Jim Bouton reinvented the player diary by being honest in Ball Four...Hayhurst does a wonderful job of capturing the contradictory essence of life in the minors, of apprentice heroes struggling on a burrito budget, thrown together and whirled apart by an impersonal business that eats its young.."
--Jeff Nueman, Clear Channel Sports
"Bull Durham meets Ball Four in Dirk Hayhurst's hilarious and moving account of life in baseball's glamor-free bush leagues." Â
--Rob Neyer, SB Nation
"Everyone he describes you can say I played with someone just like that.Any pro baseball player can relate to his stories, but for anyone who enjoys baseball, it's a good read too." Â
--Daniel Bard, Pitcher for the Boston Red Sox
"This is the long-awaited, much-needed minor-league equivalent of Ball Four. It's eloquent. It's insightful. It's poignant. It's hilarious. Sometimes all in the same paragraph. I loved it. All of it." Â
--Jayson Stark, ESPN.com
"After THE BULLPEN GOSPELS, people will know exactly who Hayhurst is and they should see ballplayers as more than just numbers on the backs of jerseys. Much like Hayhurst and others who spend careers fighting labels, it is too simple to call this a baseball book. It is so much more. It is a book about life, with baseball as the backdrop....Hayhurst has written a big-time book. That much is clear." Â
--Jordan Bastian, MLB.com
"A highly compelling and great read...Hayhurst takes you on bus rides, in the clubhouse, and, of course, in the bullpen with in-depth descriptions and terrifically written passages."
--Ian Browne, MLB.com.
"Dirk Hayhurst has written a fascinating, funny and honest account on life in the minor leagues. I loved it. Writers can't play baseball, but in this case, a player sure can write."
--Tim Kurkjian, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine, analyst/reporter ESPN television
Bullpen Gospels is a rollicking good bus ride of a book.Hayhurst illuminates a baseball life not only with wit and humor, but also with thought-provoking introspection.
--Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated.
"Baseball is a game governed by countless rules, none bigger than this one: Don't over think it. Dirk Hayhurst takes us down the rabbit hole that is his mind, to a place where that rule is constantly violated, every decision, every move, every breath over thought. In the process, he provides a brutally honest take on life in the majors-the oversized ballparks, hotel rooms, and personalities, but also the self-doubt, loneliness, and despair. I laughed, I cried, I even learned how to doctor a baseball."
--Jonah Keri, Author of The Extra 2%
"One is torn about wanting Hayhurst's baseball career to continue versus his writing career. It would be great to have both."
--Joe Gross, Austin American Statesman
"...The Bullpen Gospels is a damn good book, and in it Hayhurst acts as a unique prism (a literate ballplayer!?!?) through which the inglorious life of minor league ball is reflected. It's a thoughtful, funny, touching memoir ... The Bullpen Gospels is an enjoyable, interesting read that will give you a new kind of appreciation for the many, many under-appreciated who make the game we love what it is. Yet at the same time, it will have you questioning the deification of the uniform--which, after all, is worn by men just like you and I (uh... unless you're a woman)--and consistently laughing along the way .
Â --Drunk Jays Fans.com
Top Customer Reviews
The book is receiving rave reviews not only for its baseball-related content, but also for Hayhurst's pained, personal story. But don't be confused. This story is neither an over-the-top expose on today's players, nor a "aw shucks" feel-good tale. In fact, it is not easy to put this book into a single category.
The book centers around the 2007 season when Hayhurst moves between different levels of the San Diego Padres minor league system. Hayhurst use pseudonyms and composite characters (e.g. Pickles, Rosco, Slappy, & Maddog) to protect his teammates' identifies. This is raw stuff, some times cringe-worthy, sophomorphic fun, other times cringe-worthy pain, delivered in machine gun bursts by a gifted writer. A particular passage about an octopus copulating a bagpipe had me laughing so hard I couldn't catch my breath.
Bullpen is compelling because of the style, or "voice" with which it is written. Hayhurst's style is disarmingly conversatinal and self-deprecating; exposing the reader to the lighter side of baseball, but also to his inner most fears and demons. He does so in a manner that makes you feel like you are in the room with him and his teammates shooting the breeze. The style draws you in, his stories are intoxicating, and the result is a spellbinding read.
The grit and realism starts right from the prologue.
"I was the team's long relief man.Read more ›
After reading Hayhurst's book I now understand. To the overwhelming majority of minor leaguers, professional baseball only represented Failure. Obviously, most of them never make it to the bigs dispite their best efforts.
Few of us have to live with the reality of failing at something we dedicated so much time and effort to, but that is the reality of most minor league ballplayers.
We 'civilians' see them as guys who were playing baseball for a living when the rest of us were doing 9-5 jobs. Most of these guys wind up dead broke and have to start life all over again in their late 20's looking for a 9-5 job.
Hayhurst is a great writer with a great future. I would've given this book 5 stars but for the fact that he seemed to dwell a little too much about his personal problems which were no different than anybody else's problems. A couple of times I found myself thinking "welcome to the world, Dirk". At the same time, I couldn't put the book down.
I pre-ordered the book and anxiously awaited for it to appear on my Kindle. Once it did, I picked it up and didn't stop until I had finished the book. Now I can't wait for a follow-up to this outstanding work. The writing is exceptional, with a good sense of pacing and flow.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The most interesting point about "The Bullpen Gospels" is its perspective. Chances are good that there hasn't ever been a baseball book written from this point of... Read morePublished 1 month ago by WDX2BB
Slow start and great ending. Lots of baseball gibberish but all in all a good read. I think the story could have grown bigger earlier on. Winning isn't everything, it's something. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Brad S. Dickens
Loved Hayhurst's view on life in the minors. You were always rooting for him to make the leap even though he might become the player that you loathed in the rest of the book!Published 4 months ago by Julie F. Munro
Very compelling. Kept me on edge. Thoroughly enjoyed the bookPublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Funny book about life in the bullpen. Easy read and a must for any baseball fan.Published 4 months ago by Brian
Recommended to me as a pretty authentic chronicle of life in the minors by a pitcher we know. He was right: it was a fun read. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Gary from Santa Cruz