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  • Sam Gilman

Bullpen Gospels

RHP Dirk Hayhurst was drafted by the Padres out of Kent State University in the 8th round, 221 pick overall, of the 2003 June Amateur draft. Hayhurst spent 8 seasons grinding it out for a chance at the show. He finally arrived in the end of his 5th season but would only spend that fall, and part of the next summer, in the majors.

Dirk finished his MLB career with an 0-2 record and a 5.72 ERA. He appeared in 25 games, 10 for the Padres and 15 for the Blue Jays, starting just 3. With the Padres he had the opportunity to play alongside his childhood hero Trevor Hoffman. Hayhurst pitched 39.1 innings striking out 27 for a 1.75 WHIP. He elected free agency after the 2009 season, and was picked up by Tampa Bay but he never made it out of Durham. Seems like a fitting end to a career spent primarily in the minors. Throughout his 8-year career Hayhurst spent part of every season in the minors. He played 5 seasons in AAA, 3 in AA, 4 in Advanced A, 1 in A ball and a single season in rookie ball. He earned his living as a mid-reliever.

In Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst recounts his minor league experiences, over the course of a single season – from the winter before spring training through the end of the season.

He’s not the first guy to ever say, well a lot of the things between these pages, but he just might be the first one to say it all on the record. Those who have worked beside, or traveled with, ball players through the bush leagues know these characters, and their stories, all too well.

This book is proof positive that fart jokes are good at any age! You will find yourself laughing out loud, belly sore and tears in your eyes, reading at least one of the myriad of entries made at the expense of some poor minor leaguer’s colon. As any hurler knows, everything relies on a good release and, in the written language of fart comedy, I have rarely read better.

This must-read has lots of good information as well, not just on how to succeed, but clear paths for failure, in the league. It takes a deep dive into motivations and how fame, escape and glory can all tank career ambitions.

Maybe you just want the inside scoop on what kangaroo court is all about. You’ll get it! I’m pretty sure Hayhurst might lose his membership card for that one but some chances have to be taken for the greater good and this book is filled with great goods.

“The burden of the player isn’t to achieve greatness, but to give the feeling of it to everyone he encounters.” – Pg. 314

Around page 300 you learn not only the reason the book is called Bullpen Gospel, but the real purpose of the book as well. Pitchers will get a lot more out of this book than a simple funny set of stories, like the rest of the ball fans who read it. It is a how-to on learning to deal with insecurities that reside, for even a moment too long, inside your mind. He gives clear, and multiple, examples of how they can derail your best laid plans.

This is not a mental game manual but rather a book that gets to the heart of a player’s insecurities, letting you experience just how dark and destructive the spot where inner demons are driving can become.

“Some players think a big game requires an extra shot of intensity. Truth be told, big games require players to slow down. Emotions are already running at intense paces. Anxiety is in high supply. Big games are won by those who can keep control of themselves. Intensity can be a liability. Some exhaust themselves worrying about the game before it starts.” – Pg. 321

Throughout my time in this sport, I’ve seen a lot of guys leave the game for ‘lesser’ reasons but, at their root, most of their true ‘why’ is encompassed in the pages of this book. It isn’t about the long days on a bus, or the sleepless nights between games, or the coaches chewing your ass, or even the knowledge that you are always competing with and having to make new friends. It is about where your head is and what that will do to your game, and your person, along the way.

Your sense of self is the most valuable tool in the toolkit, as a ballplayer and a human being. This book delivers that message in funny, insightful and honest doses of gut checking realities.

“The playoffs are when a minor league team is really, truly a team. There are no prospects. There’s no time for worries about being outshined for a promotion or lack of playing time. All that matters is winning, in any way possible. Players root for each other because all interests are suddenly entwined.” – Pg. 317

Chapter 44 is what makes me a writer. I worked in baseball, minor and major leagues. I saw moments like this unfolding under lights in ballfields all around the US of A. These moments are my inspiration each and every time I compile a story for our readers. The people of our games, fans and front office alike, are the reason this sport is forever a part of my DNA. It’s nice to read someone else’s personal experience with the same.

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