“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
“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
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
“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
“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?”
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“Does she know you’re a baseball player?”
“Did you tell her you sleep at your grandmother’s yet?” My
“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
“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
“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
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
“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.