I prefer to welcome back baseball each year with a trip to Spring Training. Sneaking away from the cold of New York City in the middle of March for a couple days of fun and sun in Florida is never a bad thing. Sadly, however, it did not come to pass this year. Instead I welcomed back the baseball season through the eyes and words of one of their own, Dirk Hayhurst.
Hayhurst pitched for the San Diego Padres organization for a couple years, both in the minors and, eventually, in the majors. His story, The Bullpen Gospels, tells the life of a ball player as it exists for the majority of guys with a uniform on their back, trying to eke out a living and make it to the big leagues and live out their dream. And it is hysterical.
There are stories of bad roommates at spring training and on the road, of practical jokes and long bus rides through the night from stadium to stadium and game to game. There is the pain of almost getting cut and the triumph of winning a championship.
For the most part the story is good-humored fluff. Nothing too serious and plenty of ridiculous stories that read quickly and leave you with a smile on your face. There are a couple serious moments, too, including this bit that Hayhurst acknowledges after an evening in the bullpen hanging out with a three year old who had terminal liver cancer:
The burden of players isn’t to achieve greatness, but to give the feeling of it to everyone he encounters. It was wrong of me even to try to separate life and the game. They were intertwined, meant to be, one affecting the other, one teaching the other, even when the mixture occasionally blows up. It takes a real person, one who understands himself, to use the tool of baseball for something good. For that person, as long as he has a jersey on his back, he has a chance.
It isn’t literary genius, to be sure, but it is a quick, fun read.
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