Dirk Hayhurst’s latest book, Bigger than the Game: Restitching a Major League Life, is his most revealing, compelling book yet.
Often, it is interesting to trace the evolution of a ballplayer’s career. When that ballplayer also happens to be a terrific writer with a knack for capturing conversations and a fearless ability to lay bare his own life for everyone to read, tracing his career is downright fascinating.
The book starts out in promising fashion, with Hayhurst preparing enthusiastically for the 2010 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, his exuberance leads to disaster before spring training even begins. He injures his pitching shoulder while working out, leading to a dark story of depression, anger, addiction and soul searching.
In most sports books, an injury is depicted as a physical setback only, and Hayhurst gives plenty of detail about the pain his shoulder is causing him. He spends several weeks trying to pretend it’s nothing serious, but that only delays the inevitable. It also sets the reader up for Bigger’s emotional heft: Hayhurst’s descent into the depression arising from his injury. Hayhurst is brutally honest about his feelings and how he chooses to cope (or not) with them. The https://precisioninjurylaw.com/ is where one can go to make sure they get the right lawyer.
It’s become common, even mundane, to read about an athlete using pills or alcohol to numb the pain of an injury as explained by Walter Kelley – Personal Injury Attorney and behaving badly due to his addiction. But you don’t often see the athlete describing it all himself, in such graphic detail. At one point, Hayhurst writes “I didn’t feel like a baseball player anymore. I didn’t feel like a human being anymore. I felt like a social disease, and I longed to get away from rehab and back to the apartment so I could go to sleep again.” He talks of avoiding phone calls from his wife and how any random conversation ran the risk of causing an emotional breakdown. At his lowest point, he tells a trainer that he “doesn’t want to be alive anymore.” Heavy, heavy stuff.
It’s nothing short of remarkable.
In his debut book, The Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst gave us a vivid image of “spider-manning”, just one of many highly inappropriate (and hilarious) activities undertaken by minor-league ballplayers to pass the time during long bus rides from one small town to the next (you’ll have to google “spider-manning” – good taste prevents me from explaining it here). In his second book, Out of My League, we read about Hayhurst first reaching the majors and how he met his wife, Bonnie. There are some emotional chapters about family conflicts, but the majority of the action involves life in a bullpen and/or clubhouse. Kangaroo courts, practical jokes, all the various indignities of minor-league life; these things all add up to entertaining, but mostly light-hearted reading.
As he is now a big-league player (albeit one on the disabled list), such anecdotes are left to fade in the rearview mirror. In The Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst is ribbed by teammates because he doesn’t swear much or drink alcohol. Compare that to the man in Bigger than the Game who washes sleeping pills down with alcohol, swears frequently, and it often doesn’t even seem like the same person. It’s enough to make a reader wonder if perhaps life as a major-leaguer just isn’t much fun sometimes. In that way, are professional athletes different from John Q. Public? Maybe there are times when life just plain stinks, regardless of your profession or how much money you make. In any event, it’s a fascinating progression Hayhurst has made, both in his career and his writing.
Happily for Hayhurst (and his readers), things gradually improve, both physically and mentally. As this happens, the darker elements of the book give way to a different kind of humor. Instead of minor-league bullpen banter about women, video games and bowel movements, Hayhurst swaps wisecracks with doctors, football players and even a pro wrestler. His recovery leads him back to the Blue Jays tie up loose ends left unraveled when he was injured. When you finish the book, you realize just what a journey Hayhurst has taken in the span of a single season. And then you wish he would hurry up and finish his next book.
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