Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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‘Garfoose’ delivers another classic
Posted Apr 23, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Apr 23, 2012 at 09:49 PM
“If you are looking for someone’s dirty laundry, you won’t find it here,” Dirk Hayhurst cautions in the introduction of his latest book.
That’s not entirely true. Hayhurst airs a great deal of it, but it belongs to him. And I’m not even including the bloody towel he used to stop the bleeding when his fiancée cut her foot in a hotel room after the left-hander finally got the call to the major leagues in August 2008.
Hayhurst may never be the next Cliff Lee, especially after making his debut with the San Diego Padres by going 3-0 to the first batter he faced. But as an author, he is right on target and consistently in the zone.
“Out of My League: A Rookie’s Survival in the Bigs” (Citadel Press, $24.95, hardback, 406 pages) is a strong, sensitive, highly personal and entertaining look at an athlete struggling to make it to the majors. And, more importantly, it’s a story about a young man trying to steer his life in the proper direction.
Hayhurst may have met his future wife through eHarmony, but his life was anything but harmonious as 2008 began. His parents constantly bicker, his brother is battling alcoholism and bickers with his parents, and his grandmother is a modern-day version of the Wicked Witch of the West (who also bickers with his parents — and with Dirk, for that matter).
“Out of My League” picks up where Hayhurst’s best-seller debut, “The Bullpen Gospels,” left off. Hayhurst’s euphoria over being part of the Double-A champion San Antonio Missions in 2007 is short-lived as he returns home to reality. He needs cash and works at a Circuit City in the offseason. He longs for a shot the majors but also knows “the clock is always ticking.”
It’s “waiting for you to break into the big time or settle up the debt you made trying to get there,” Hayhurst writes.
That debt can be costly. Playing for the Triple A Portland Beavers, Hayhurst wrestles with a long-distance relationship, sleeping on the couch in an apartment he shares with three other minor-leaguers, and self-doubt as his pitching swings between excellent and miserable.
“In my line of work, there is always someone with a bat standing between me and my goal,” Hayhurst writes.
Triple A is just a phone call from the majors, Hayhurst explains, a league that can be both exciting and bitter since “it’s crammed full of veterans who feel they should be in the Bigs, much the same way prisons are populated by criminals who swear they’re innocent.”
Names in the book were changed in some cases, some by request of his teammates, and others at Hayhurst’s discretion. It’s probably a good thing, too, since some of his teammates ranged from immature to full-blown idiots. Hayhurst does a good job giving the reader a view into the locker room and beyond. It may seem glamorous, but at the minor-league level conditions are far from ideal.
That is nothing compared to when Hayhurst realizes his dream and is promoted to the major leagues. The pressure he suddenly faces and puts on himself is almost too much to bear, and he certainly does not get much support from Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley.
There is this gem of a quote from Balsley after Hayhurst got knocked out of a game: “Honestly, all I can tell you is there are some guys who can put it all together when they cross those white lines here, and some guys who can’t. You’re probably just one of the guys who can’t.”
Talk about “see you later.”
“He should have just shot me,” Hayhurst writes, “because after he said those things, my life in baseball was over.”
Not completely. Hayhurst recounts a great conversation with Padres closer Trevor Hoffman (“You’re a bit of a deep guy, aren’t you?” he asks the rookie).
There is plenty of baseball in this book, but what makes it such a good read is Hayhurst’s brutal honesty about himself. He shares his blossoming relationship with Bonnie, whom he married after the 2008 season, and he puts aside his anger long enough to have a deep conversation with his father about the past and the future.
Hayhurst tells some awfully funny stories, like teammates selling cartons of X-rated videos in the locker room, or running into a transvestite convention at his hotel. Or the hazing at the major-league level, when the Padres’ rookies were forced to wear Hooters outfits (tight-fitting orange pants and all) on the plane and later in a bar.
The players’ banter with women fans of various ages also is explored.
Hayhurst even has an imaginary character, called the Garfoose — “a giant, fire breathing, half-giraffe half-moose with yellow fur and purple spots.” His Twitter account? @TheGarfoose, of course. That character is immortalized in this year’s Allen & Ginter baseball card set produced by Topps. That’s fame.
“Out of My League” will never be confused for Jim Bouton’s epic 1970 work, “Ball Four.” And Hayhurst admits as much, writing that he was not going to reveal names, “show cheaters, adulterers or tax dodgers; or do any other whistle-blowing.”
But he offers keen observations about baseball and life. “Sometimes the things we think matter the most in this world turn out to be rather expendable,” he writes, “while sometimes the things we take for granted are absolutely priceless.
“And that is what this story is all about.”
It’s a priceless read. Hayhurst has delivered another classic.