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VINE VOICEon March 28, 2014
I have read all four of Dirk Hayhurst's books now and have enjoyed each one of them. Where the first three predominately focused on the lighter side of baseball (with terrific background into his troubled family, his supportive romance and subsequent marriage), "Bigger Than the Game" takes a slightly different tack. Dirk gets injured and his experiences move to the trials and tribulations of dealing with rehab, teammates resentful of his writing, and the realization that what makes one good on the field of competition is not necessarily what gives one an acceptable quality of life.

Dirk Hayhurst's writing is vulnerable and real. We are privy to the rarely seen shadow world of pro sports rehabbing and psychologists. A particularly funny section of the book takes place at the world famous Andrews Clinic in Birmingham, where Hayhurst encounters sadistic trainers, a baseball crazy nun, a living ghost of the old south, and wrestler Triple H.

The world of the injured player can be a difficult one. “I don’t think being lonely has anything to do with the number of people you’re around,” writes Hayhurst. Largely separated from the team during their physical rehab regimen, players are suddenly removed from the game they have devoted their lives to from an early age. With time suddenly on their hands basic insecurities often rise and introspection follows. Some cannot handle it. Some become depressed and turn to pain meds, some turn to alcohol, and some face difficult home lives. “Spring training for the injured is like detention. While everyone else is out having fun, sharing experiences in the game they love, you’re stuck inside doing tedious busywork.” While teams now often provide a sports psychologist to help players work through these problems, actually going to see one is seen as a sign of weakness by many in the game.

Hayhurst finally does go to the psychologist, albeit reluctantly, and works to come to terms with his difficulties. Professional sports is a business, and as a business it is performance based. “It’s like this,” he writes. “This whole industry is morally bankrupt. It’s full of fakes and bastards and arrogant SOBs who can get away with murder as long as they play great. And then, on the flip side, there’s a pocket of decent guys who deserve respect, but don’t get it if they don’t play well…but instead of trying to say we’re not a commodity, we just want to be the most valuable commodity possible…both sides say they hate it and yet both sides wouldn’t have it any other way.” Later, when he talks to wrestler Triple H at the Andrews Clinic, Hayhurst realizes that playing a sport professionally is “a job where people look at the role you play on television and feel they have the right to make up what your life should be like.”

If, as Yogi Berra said, 90 percent of baseball is half mental, the mental side of the game is much underrepresented in print. Players have to learn not only how to play the game, but how to play a role when they reach the elite levels of their sport. Many struggle off the field with this distinction, with disastrous results plucked right from today's headlines. Hayhurst encounters all of these issues and more. Instead of succumbing to his problems, he uses the time to step away from the intense competition of sport and get some much-needed perspective. “…at the end of the day, we were just grown men putting on costumes and playing children’s games. To take any of it more seriously than that was a mistake.” The money, competition, intensity and constant press coverage seems to warp perspectives and values in sports in a way that makes people glorify the game and forget that there are other things that are more important. Players coddled from a young age because of their athletic abilities often forget that there is much more out there that is bigger than the game.

Dirk Hayhurst gives us a rare and fascinating behind the scenes glimpse of broken athletes working out of the spotlight not just to return to form, but to discover and face what it really is to be human. “You know,” he writes, “I think I learned more about baseball this year than any season before it, and I didn't throw a single pitch.”
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I thought this would be more like Jim Bouton's Ball Four. Alas, only Bouton could pen such an inside pitch on what the big leagues is like. I loved that book even though all my heroes, at that time, hated it.

About eight chapters into Bigger Than the Game: Restitching a Major League Wife I wanted to reward what I was perceiving to be the self-absorbed tear-laden ramblings of a spoiled jock a 1-Star review. But then something happened...

I came to appreciate just how much guts it took for a proud athlete to let complete strangers see into his battle with the demons of depression, self-doubt and failure. That takes the courage that only great writers can put to paper.

I only regret that Dirk Hayhurst is not going to, apparently, pitch in the big leagues.

This is the first book of his that I've read, but it is good enough that I will buy his other books.

I'm giving Bigger Than the Game 5 Stars not as a baseball book. More as a literary book, and as a biography or memoir. It's much less about America's greatest pastime than it is about human psychology. Regardless, it is a great read. Oh, and by encouraging Hayhurst I hope he will one day burn the likes of Brice to the ground in a future book.
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on March 17, 2014
I've been a baseball fan ever since I can remember. In fact, when I immigrated to the US at the age of 10, I saw baseball on TV for the first time and instantly fell in love with it. I wanted to be a baseball player when I grew up; alas, my talent didn't agree with me. It was a treat when I got to be in a major league clubhouse a few times. I love going to big league ball parks, but the more intimate setting of spring training, fall league, and the minors in general are more interesting to me.

Having read all 3.5 of Dirk's books, I can genuinely say that I'm more than just a fan. I can relate to Dirk's mental struggles, the heat that he took from his teammates, and his unintentional screw-ups. While his other books were entertaining on the baseball side of things, Bigger Than the Game really gave me a sense of the mental aspect that very few players care to share, for fear of being seen as not tough enough. I laughed through a lot of the stories he shared, cringed through the times when he didn't know what to do, and identified with him on some of the stuff I go through on a daily basis. It was as if he was right in front of me, telling me all these stories in person. And when I read about the dumbbell incident, my heart just sank for him, because I did the exact same thing twice and felt like an idiot for doing so both times.

It was also fun trying to figure out who the characters were in real life, although they weren't necessarily hard to solve. Perhaps Dirk could have used better alter-ego names that weren't derivatives of the players' real names. I can see why some players didn't want to be included in the book.

More than that, Dirk has inspired me to write my own stories. Maybe it's because he seems like just any other normal person, or the fact that he taught himself how to write. I feel like even a nobody with zero writing skills like me can figure something out if I tried hard enough. I truly believe that writing helped Dirk through his ups and downs, and now he's in a better place mentally because of it.
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on March 17, 2015
I don’t watch reality shows. I find them brainless and totally uninteresting. Why should I care about the daily life of a random person? However, I do spend several hours a week thinking about and studying baseball. In my opinion, baseball is fascinating and utterly philosophical.

What is the difference between baseball and reality television? Truthfully, absolutely nothing. Sure you can argue some differences, but in the end you are watching the meaningless interactions of egotistical people partaking in fabricated drama.

There is nothing that can replace the excitement of a walk off home run or the beauty of a no-hitter, but in the grand scheme of life, baseball is meaningless.

This is why I like Dirk Hayhurst. He understands that constant internal struggle all baseball lovers feel. You love the game so much yet you also loathe its insignificance.

Bigger Than the Game is the third book I have read from Hayhurst. His first book let us see the unglamorous life of the minor leagues. His second book showed us the complicated transition from the minors to the majors. Hayhurst then came out with an e-book that was a continuation of his second book which I have not read.

In Bigger Than the Game, Hayhurst uncovers the life you definitely have not heard: the life and times of the disabled list. In the civilian world, all the reports the fans receive pertain to a ball player’s estimated recovering time. Here Hayhurst shows us the physical and emotional struggle recovering athletes go through day in and day out.

Like I have said in other reviews, Hayhurst is a great communicator. He is able to give us a peek behind the curtain without writing a shocking exposé and throwing someone under a bus. Hayhurst simply recounts his experiences, how he handled success, how he dealt with defeat and how he suffered with pain.

This book offers the least amount of actual baseball than his other books, but if love his earlier stuff you will love this book too.

Here is a quote near the end of the book that I think sums things up perfectly:

“At the end of the day, we are just grown men putting on costumes and playing children’s game. To take any of it more seriously than that was a mistake.”
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on July 20, 2017
I recommend all of Dirk's books. He presents a candid, and sometimes funny, look inside baseball. Every fan should read his books to gain a real appreciation for what minor leaguers go through to be one of the few to make the big league. But these books are more than stories about baseball. Dirk weaves his personal and family struggles throughout the books while showing that people with strong values can deal with adversity and still hold on to their values. I have now read all of his books and feel like I know and respect him as a friend. A must read for baseball fans!
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on July 31, 2014
I have really enjoyed all of Dirk Hayhurst's books. While I have never personally seen him play (although I believe he was with the Blue Jays when we visited Toronto at the start of the 2009 season), his insights into life in the minors and majors are funny and often quite touching. I'd love to meet him and his wife. Maybe someday they will attend the Baseball Assistance Team's annual fund raising dinner in NYC and I'll be lucky enough to sit at the same table with them!
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on March 26, 2014
As a baseball fan and as a retired mental health therapist, I love Hayhurst's descriptions of the psychological game of baseball, where one misplaced comment can cause a player to lose his dream and a million bucks. I always admire the way Hayhurst undresses himself to his audience. He is a brave man, and this is a good story about how he became brave. While I laughed with Bullpen Gospels, this book, while important was too grim for me to laugh at. The emotional and cognitive lessons Hayhurst learned should be important to a wide audience. Hayhurst takes a very dangerous turn, however, in pronouncing antidepressants as a weak crutch. Based on the descriptions of his family, Hayhurst may have a problem with his Serotonin levels. Many people do, including most people who are chemically dependent. Discouraging people from taking antidepressants is terrible. It's like telling people with congenital leg disorders that they are week for using a brace. Dirk, I hope you clear this up.

As for Hayhurst's future I loved his baseball commentary last year on TBS or TNT (whatever) and hope that he get's a chance to do this regularly. His broadcasting commentary is unique and entertaining.
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on August 30, 2015
Definitely much darker than his previous books, but it also seemed more deep and real. It's missing the fun hijinks, but it's much more introspective and insightful. I'm not sure people would enjoy this book without getting to know Dirk through his first two books, but knowing his background really made me root for him throughout all the struggles of this book. Then, in the last third of the book, it reverts to that typical self-deprecating lighthearted Dirk Hayhurst style, but this time I couldn't put it down and stayed up half the night to finish it. Without the dark first half, the latter half and its story of redemption wouldn't have been nearly as compelling. Very well done...again.
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on February 28, 2014
In "The Natural," Roy Hobbs's father says to his young son: 'You've got a gift." Well, Dirk Hayhurst sure has a gift for telling great stories about baseball and about life. There has never been anything like the "Bullpen Gospels Trilogy" -- first the original "Bullpen Gospels," then "Out of My League," and now "Bigger Than the Game." All three are gems in their own right -- books that are hard to put down because they combine great story-telling, side-splitting humor, and profound insights about failure and success on and off the field. The reviews for this new book in different publications have been terrific. No surprise there. Dirk has done it again. He's got a gift.
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on March 4, 2014
I discovered Hayhurst's first book, The Bullpen Gospels, while I was interning in minor league baseball 3 years ago. I absolutely loved it and I've been a fan of his ever since. Bigger Than the Game was different than the previous two and gets even more personal. He talks about his struggles with his injury, depression, and everything that comes with it. It was an inside look at things we don't normally hear about as fans. Hayhurst is honest, insightful, and hilarious (his battle with a professional wrestler nearly had me in tears, I was laughing so hard). His books are all must-reads for fans of all sports, not just baseball. I just wish his books came out more frequently; I read them so quickly and want more.
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