Monday, May 07, 2012

Out of My League

Out of My League is Dirk Hayhurst’s second inside-baseball look at what it is like for those thousands of young men around the country whose only goal in life is to break into the big leagues.  Only a small percentage of college baseball players manage to get to, much less past, A-Ball, and then only a small percentage of that lucky bunch will ever play major league baseball for any length of time.  Despite these long odds, some players still find it so impossible to walk away from the game that they will spend the better part of a decade chasing their dreams.  Failure most often follows from a lack of talent or physical ability, but sometimes it results from something the player cannot control, such as a career ending injury or getting stacked up inside an organization that has no room on the major league roster for promotion even after it has been earned by one of the organization’s talented young minor leaguers.

Baseball memoirs are, of course, usually written by players with name recognition.  These players are so talented that, although the details will differ, their stories are somewhat predictable.  What makes them most interesting is the little peek they allow the rest of us into their world – the more honest and revealing they are, the better.  Dirk Hayhurst is not a player with a lot of name recognition working for him.  Hayhurst spent several years in the San Diego Padres organization before getting his short-lived shot with the big club.  His baseball skills, rare as they are, could only carry him so far – good enough to earn him his major league shot, but not good enough to keep him in the show once he made it there.  Surprisingly, this is exactly what makes Out of My League such an interesting baseball book.

Dirk Hayhurst in San Diego Uni
Hayhurst’s account of his quest is a frank one, one in which he reveals things about his immediate family (parents, brother, and a disastrous grandmother) that cannot have pleased any of them.  Especially in the book’s first half, he spends as much time describing what goes on in the offseason as he does what he experiences during that year’s six months of baseball.  This is both a strength, and a weakness, of the book.  While it provides insight into the offseason financial struggles so many long term minor leaguers struggle with, Hayhurst’s recollections finally become a bit tedious, leaving the reader as happy to see the beginning of the next season as Hayhurst himself must have been to see it arrive.  But without these insights regarding his relationships with his family and his fiancĂ©, some of the decisions Hayhurst makes during the season would be mystifying.  As it is, they still left me shaking my head at times. 

Particularly fascinating, I think, is what Hayhurst expresses about what it is like for a rookie to join the big club: the awe these players feel for their surroundings, the everyday perks available to them, and the veteran players on the field with them.  Players like Dirk Hayhurst meet good guys, bad guys, and more than a few jackasses along the way.  Thankfully, he has decided to share his story (and that of countless players like him) with the rest of us.

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