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Out Of My League: A Rookie's Survival in the Bigs

Dirk Hayhurst

ISBN 9780806534855
Publish Date 2/28/2012
Format Hardcover
List Price: $24.95

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“This is more than a baseball book. It’s the story of a man learning that it’s possible to grip a baseball without it gripping him.” --Craig Calcaterra, NBC Sports.com

After six years of laying it on the line in the minors, pitcher Dirk Hayhurst hopes 2008 is the year he breaks into the big leagues. But every time Dirk looks up, the bases are loaded with new challenges, on and off the field: a wedding balancing on a blind hope, a family in chaos, and paychecks that beg Dirk to answer, “How long can I afford to keep doing this?”

Then it finally happens—Dirk gets called up to the Majors, to play for the San Diego Padres. A dream comes true when he takes the mound against the San Francisco Giants, kicking off forty insane days and nights in the Bigs—with a big paycheck, bigger-than-life personalities, and the biggest pressure he’s ever felt.

Like the classic games of baseball’s illustrious history, Out of My League entertains from the first pitch to the last out, capturing the gritty realities of playing on the big stage, the comedy and camaraderie in the dugouts and locker rooms, and the hard-fought, personal journeys that drive our love of America’s favorite pastime.

“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.” —Keith Olbermann

“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 author

Chapter One

“It’s dead, Dirk,” she said, without even so much as a concerned look from the wheel as we drove. “You’re just going to have to deal with it.”

I dealt with her tactfully delivered news by letting my head fall into the passenger side window glass with a disparaging thunk. What the hell was I going to do for transportation now?

“Cars do that, honey, they just die,” she added.

“Remind me to never leave you with a puppy,” I said.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, it’s a car. There are others out there.”

“That car and I had memories!”

“I don’t know what you want me tell you.” She accelerated our currently living car onto the freeway as she spoke, heading south from the Akron-Canton Airport. “Your dad thought it was the fuel injectors or something. I think it just rusted through and croaked. Either way it would have cost more than what you paid for it to fix. Your dad sold it for scrap already.”

“You sold my car!”

“It was dead! And your grandma said she could smell leaking gas. She demanded we remove it from her house, called every day until we did. Said it was going to blow up and kill her.”

“Was it leaking gas?” I could envision my deranged grandmother crawling beneath my car punching holes in the gas tank to spite me. She doubled as my landlord during the off-season and used some Gestapo-style tactics to get me to do her bidding, threatening me with everything from eviction to prosecution. I wouldn’t put it past her to practice sabotage.

“I don’t know, that’s what she said. We didn’t check,” said my mother.

“How could you not check?” I threw my hands up at the injustice.

“It doesn’t matter! It’s gone now. Dad got $150, since the tires were still good.”

“My poor car . . .” I imagined it being obediently led to a dark scrap yard someplace, getting patted on the hood one last time, then rolled into a vicious crushing machine while a fat man with a cigar laughed and counted out a wad of money with my grandma. “You let it die,” I said to my mother. “I asked you to keep it safe for me and you got it killed. You’re a car murderer!”

Mom, taking her eyes from the road to look at me for the fi rst time in our conversation, simply said, “I’m glad you’re home, sweetheart. Now shut up.”

When I got off the plane that brought me home from the 2007 Double A championship season, it was as if the whole thing never happened. There was no ticker-tape parade. No flashbulbs or requests for autographs. No screaming fans, endorsement deals, or bonus paychecks. The big leagues didn’t call and request my immediate promotion, and I wasn’t mentioned on ESPN. There was just Mom, waiting impatiently for me in her car so she could taxi me home before she was late for work.

One may wonder how the elation that comes with jumping onto a pile of screaming teammates and uncorking fountains of Champagne to celebrate ultimate victory can fade away so quickly. That’s because minor league championships are great, but they are still minor league. Once all the champagne is sprayed, the pictures are taken, and everyone’s had a chance to make out with the trophy, it doesn’t mean much. I was part of an event I could al ways be proud of, and Lord knows, winning feels a whole lot better than losing, but in the grand scheme of the minor league economy, my name in a record book was just that. I was still going to be living the next six months on my grandma’s fl oor, looking for another source of income, getting ready for a new season while wondering what being a Double A champion really meant.

Such is the lot of a career minor league baseball player, because, even at its best, minor league baseball struggles to translate into a better quality of real-world life. Sure, there are wonderful moments like winning, the thrill of competition, and the joy of watching teammates twenty beers deep get really emotional about how much they love you at a championship party. You get to put on the jersey, lace up the spikes, and listen to John Fogerty croon out “Centerfield” all summer long. But the season always ends, for better or for worse, and that’s when you fi nd yourself face-to-face with a reality that tells you your car is pushing up daisies and your dad only got $150 for its tires.

Life seems so blissful when all you have to do is focus on the next pitch—assuming that next pitch doesn’t get hit over the fence. When you are on field, living in the moment, it’s easy to think all that matters is the here and now. Yet, when the pitching is done, the truth is revealed: league title or total defeat, the clock is always ticking, waiting for you to break into the big time or settle up the debt you made trying to get there. I had showered three times since my San Antonio Missions brethren and I celebrated our championship by soaking one another in cheap Champagne, but nothing got me clean like the cold, sobering splash of reality my mom gave me on the car ride home from the airport.

“So, do you think you’re guaranteed a place on the team for next year?”

“I don’t know, Mom.” There was no way to know that.

“You don’t think the championship made you more important to the club?”

“I don’t know.” Or that.

“Didn’t they tell you what their plans are for you?”

“No.” Or that.

“Did they tell you they couldn’t have done it without you?”

“No.”

“Well, what did they tell you?”

“Good job, we’re proud of you. See you next year.”

My mom paused in her onslaught of prying questions for a moment and then declared, “Well, that sucks.”

“I thought it was all pretty cool until we started talking about it, actually.”

“Oh. My. God. You are so depressing. You’d think you’d be happier after winning a championship. ”

I caught myself before I could object to my mom’s logic. Telling her she was doing that thing she does where she inadvertently sucks the pride from a situation wasn’t going to work now since it hadn’t worked during any of the other years I tried explaining it to her, so I said, “I’m just telling you what I know, Mom.”

“This is why I read the Internet sites, you know. You never tell me anything.”

“Whatever.” I rolled my eyes.

“Fine, let’s talk about something else then.” My mom took a highway exit for the area of Canton where my grandma’s house was located. “What are you going to do for a job?”

“I just got off the plane, Mom.” And I was beginning to wonder if I could get back on it.

“I know, but you’ll need a job if you want to get a car.”

“I realize that.”

“I suppose you can borrow your grandmother’s car until you get one.”

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.

“Who do you have to impress? No one knows you’re back,” said my mom, noting my disgust.

“I have a date tomorrow.”

“A girl!” she squealed. Meddling in the events of my baseball life was only secondary pleasure to the joy she took from meddling in my love life. “How is that even possible?”

“Thank you for being so confident in your son.”

“I mean, how did you meet one from around here during the season? You’ve been gone all year.”

“On eHarmony,” I said.

“Oh, a technological romance.” She nodded her head as if she thought this was what all the kids were doing these days. “What’s her name?”

“Bonnie.”

“Does she know you’re a baseball player?”

“Yes.”

“Did you tell her you sleep at your grandmother’s yet?” My mom giggled.

“No, Mom.”

“What do you think she’ll say when you do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is she a nice girl, I mean, not a stalker or something?”

“No, Mom, she’s not a stalker.”

“Where are you taking her out to?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Well, if you need my advice, I’m always here.” She smiled at me to let me know my questions were always welcome, though I knew I never had to ask her any to get her answers. “You can ask anything, honey, you know that. Even sex-related questions. I know you say you aren’t having it, but you can still ask me if you’re curious.”

“Okay, Mom. That’s enough.”

“I think it would really help you relax if you did. You are so high-strung. Does Bonnie know how high-strung you are?”

“That’s enough, now.” I started humming something to tune her out.

“Has she had sex, or is she a religious type like you?”

“Okay, Mom, time for another subject change. How’s Dad doing?”

My mom shut up at this. The glee of sucking details from me like some social vampire dissipated. “Don’t ask,” she said, looking back to the road.

“Why? What’s wrong? I thought things were going well at home.”

She said nothing.

Concerned, I turned to her, “Brak isn’t drinking again, is he?”

“No, your brother kept his promise,” said my mom. She looked like me trying to answer her questions.

“Then what is it?”

“We’re here,” she said, and spun the wheel.

My mom pulled the car into the driveway of my grandma’s house and parked under the canopy of trees close to the garage. The leaves were turning in the autumn weather and had littered the driveway with reds and yellows. My grandma was vainly raking them up with a metal-fingered rake that scratched across the pavement of the drive. When we exited the car, I made my way over to my grandma and offered to hug her, which she accepted. It was a nice moment—maybe I was wrong to suspect her of punching holes in my deceased car’s gas tank after all? When we fi nished our embrace, however, she thrust her rake at me and said, “Finish gathering up these leaves. When you’re done, those stupid neighbors’ dogs shit in my backyard again. The shovel is in the shed.” Then she walked into the house.

“Well,” said my mom. “Welcome home.”

“Thanks.” I said, holding the rake, which smelled faintly like gas.

“It’s a place to live,” said my mom with a shrug. “If you need anything, call me.”

“I need a lot of things,” I mumbled.

I unloaded my luggage, told my mom I loved her, then watched her pull out of the drive and make for work. I was home, if you could call it that, and I had a lot to figure out. I needed a job, transportation, a place to train, the name of a nice restaurant, and the courage to ask my grandmother if I could borrow her car. Yet, before all that could happen, I needed to finish raking the leaves from the driveway, then go shovel some dog shit.

About Dirk Hayhurst:

Dirk Hayhurst is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Bullpen Gospels. Drafted from Kent State University in 2003 as a senior sign, Hayhurst has pitched professionally for nine years on more than eight minor league teams and two major league teams, including the San Diego Padres and the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2011, he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays and pitched for their Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls, in Durham, NC. Hayhurst was born in Canton, Ohio, and resides in the off-season in Hudson, Ohio, with his wife Bonnie, a music therapist.

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Customer Review

How about them Padres? (Sunday, April 22, 2012)
Reviewer: Linda

For the fans of the San Diego Padres, the 2008 season was a long and sad summer. For Dirk Hayhurst, it was his chance at the Bigs, the season he came up from the minor league team to pitch for the Padres. Many times that summer we in San Diego wondered how it felt to be playing for a team that lost, and lost, and lost again, 99 times, to be exact. In Out of My League, Dirk Hayhurst gives us the inside scoop on how that felt. The first part of the book recounts his experiences in the minor league teams in the Padre organization. He gives us fun stories of his time touring, pitching, jockeying for a chance to be seen and called up to the Big Time. He describes life on the road in the minors, day-to-day life, the ups and downs. He pretty much refrains from being a snitch, and the stories he recounts are pretty complimentary to his fellow players. When some of the stories are raunchy, we suspect he has used a nickname for the player involved. Some of the players he names by name are still playing ball in San Diego, and it is fun to have been given a little glimpse into their humanity. Who knew they spent so much time in the minor leagues before making it bit? When Dirk gets to the big league team, he describes the clubhouse and locker rooms and general perks that major league players enjoy. Many fans in San Diego would agree with him on his experience at Petco Park with its beautiful setting and plush ambience, the expensive hot dogs and drinks. He doesn’t get to stay very long in San Diego before he gets traded, and there his book ends. We have traveled with him through the minor leagues up to the majors. We have watched his joys and frustrations. We have grieved with him on his relationship with his parents, and cheered him on in his relationship with his finacee and eventual wife, Bonnie.

A major league baseball player is essentially interviewing for his job each game that he plays, and must expect to be cut and traded, or sent down to the minor leagues anytime he is not able to get the job done. There are always players waiting to take his spot in the Big Time. This is the enjoyable story of one of them, Dirk Hayhurst.

out of my league (Tuesday, March 27, 2012)
Reviewer: jbarr

OUT OF MY LEAGUE by Dirk Hayhurst
This book is written by and spoken from Dirk's point of view as he is the one going through all of it.
Talk of him growing up in his family where his dad would help him by coaching in baseball. Over time it's
all Dirk wants to do.
Being in the minor league hasn't amounted to a big pay check and because of what he shows on the mound he
is moved to the major league where things turn around ten fold for him.
Liked how he handled the let down of losing a game and that others could see it also.

Love the guy talk and pranks along the way. A man would super really love this book as they could relate more
to the things that happen. I just like baseball so the story line was interesting to keep me reading through 400
pages.

A plus was the romance to Bonnie and how the book and season follows her as well in every day life.
Besides traveling to different new places to me, there is also a lot I was able to learn. The most funnier things
were the beer bag and princess knapsack.


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