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Book Review: Out of My League, by Dirk Hayhurst

I had actually decided that I wasn't going to read Dirk Hayhurst's Out of My League: A Rookie's Survival in the Bigs just yet, because I'd already read two baseball books this year.  I had downloaded the free sample for my NOOK and read a couple of pages, but as I tend to do, I got distracted and started reading another couple of books from the Library.

And then Out of My League came through.  I had forgotten that I'd placed a Hold Request on it when Hayhurst was on the Baseball Today Podcast a few weeks ago.  So I started reading it.  And I'm glad I did, because it's just all kinds of awesome. 

Unlike the previous two books I've read that were written by major league pitchers (Knuckler and Wherever I Wind Up), Out of My League has no co-writing credit listed.  Because Dirk Hayhurst wrote this book on his own, and he's an awesome writer.  (This isn't to take anything away from either Tim Wakefield or R.A. Dickey.  Hayhurst is just better.)  This passage pretty much sealed the deal for me (after his mother tells him he could borrow his grandmother's car during the offseason):

I deflated with a long, exasperated exhale at the thought of patrolling the streets in my grandmother's ark-like car-asaurous.  It was a monster of steel and chrome that devoured economy parking like Tic Tacs and swilled down fuel like minor leaguers on cheap booze.

The book follows Dirk from the beginning of one offseason into the next one, from being a successful Double-A pitcher, into an up-and-down Triple-A pitcher, and finally to the Majors.  Along the way we meet an extremely colorful set of characters, not the least of which are Hayhurst's family, who seem to put the fun in dysfunctional.  (Actually, he's quite brutal in his depiction of some of the strife and difficulty, though it's paid off well in a bit of reconciliation later in the book, particularly with his father.)

Hayhurst also meets his future wife and has to figure out how to explain to her the strange and profane environment in which he works, though he himself is trying to live in a more righteous way.  In fact, his abstemious nature garners him a bit of grief from some of the more the sex-crazed, alcohol-ridden ne'er-do-wells on the team.

The book isn't as overtly Christian as Wherever I Wind Up, but the fact that there's quite a bit of foul language in it makes it feel quite a bit more authentic.  Then again, I'm unconvinced that God is truly offended at the "more colorful metaphors" of the English language.  Even the Apostle Paul said "crap" now and then.  (I held back there.)

Hayhurst's writing is both hilarious and profound, with just the right amount of literary flourish to let the reader know he knows what he's doing without making his prose unreadable.

There are very few careers that offer you such a life-changing opportunity mixed with the fulfillment of victory.  The trouble is, you're not buying that opportunity with dollars, but with years of your life you can't have back once spent.

Of course, I dug the local connection here, because Dirk Hayhurst pitched for the AAA Portland Beavers before they moved away from our fair city, and I had to go back and check the minor-league box scores to see if I ever saw him pitch.  (No.  Bummer.  But I likely saw him sitting in the bullpen, so that's something.)

As far as the descriptions of the differences between the minor league life and that enjoyed by major leaguers go, the book is phenomenal.  The culture shock and sheer grandeur of a major league clubhouse must be something to behold.  But particularly effective, to me, was Hayhurst's description of how it felt to get that first major league start, with all the nerves and other-worldliness you'd probably imagine. 

But the book is deeper than just baseball, because it also deals with the idea that just because you attain your dream doesn't mean it'll be what you expected.  You might love it.  You also might hate it.  It might chew you up and spit you out a few times before you figure it out.  It might change you.  It might change those around you.  Baseball makes a great metaphor for life.  (Unlike those other second-rate sports.  Heh.)

I've heard that his previous book, The Bullpen Gospels, is even better than this one, and I guess I'll have to check into that myself.  You'd think I would've had my fill of baseball writing for the year, but the fact that I'm even interested in Hayhurst's other work is a testament to how much I enjoyed this one.

I'm actually not particularly close to finishing anything else, but I'll make a run at Douglas Wilson's Heaven Misplaced for next week if I can.  It's high time I reviewed a theology book, don't you think?

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