Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dirk Hayhurst, MLB Pitcher and Author of The Bullpen Gospels


“I don't want people to read the book and feel like they read about a ball player, I want people to read it and feel like it impacted their lives.” - Dirk Hayhurst

During my time writing at The Voice of Sport, I have had the pleasure of speaking with some wonderful people from the sporting world. My most recent interview with Dirk Hayhurst, a right-handed relief pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, was perhaps the most insightful, inspiring and enlightening conversation to date.

After attending Kent State University, Hayhurst began his career in the San Diego Padres organization and made his Major League debut in 2008. During his time in the minors, he began writing the Non-Prospect Diaries for Baseball America, a series of articles chronicling his thoughts and insights into the world of baseball. Hayhurst saw the Non-Prospect Diaries as an opportunity to step out from behind the uniform and shine the spotlight on the man beneath, which eventually led to writing his first book, The Bullpen Gospels, set for release on March 30th.

Through his writing, we learn that life in baseball, especially the minor leagues, is not always glamorous. It can be a struggle to persevere and many sacrifices are required while in pursuit of your dreams.

“For every goal or dream that we have, there is a sacrifice involved and I gave up a lot,” said Hayhurst from his off-season home in Hudson Ohio. “Baseball, as glorious and wonderful as we think it is, isn't always that glorious and wonderful. It takes us away from the people that we love, it commands us to give up things that we care about and it pigeon-holes us into a caped crusader on the field, a villain to some and a hero to others.”

“The best parts of me are not the parts that you see on the ball field,” continued Hayhurst. “They are the parts of me that stay at home and love my wife and care about our family and I always wanted to be that way. While I love my job, I do recognize that I had to give up a lot to do it.”

After spending time with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51's last season and finishing the year in Toronto with the Blue Jays, Hayhurst is familiar with many of his teammates at both levels. That sense of continuity and the friendships formed on both teams can help a player's performance during the long baseball season.

“If you have guys that you have played with before and you are returning to work with them, it certainly does help your comfort level. You make friends in this business and to be honest with you, team chemistry is big, it really is. These are the people that you are going to be around like family, so their opinions of you will either validate your feelings of confidence in yourself or it will erode it.”

The Blue Jays are entering the upcoming season in a rebuilding mode; looking to their younger players to establish themselves as every day major league players. For Hayhurst, hard work and preparation are extremely important elements to success in baseball, but sometimes it is knowing what not to do that is the final piece to the puzzle.

“Sometimes you have to slow down and just be yourself. I got a lot of good advice about pitching last year and it helped me quite a bit in the big leagues,” explained Hayhurst. “When things get out of control, you need to slow down, you need to regroup and sometimes instead of trying so hard you need to try a little less. In a tight situation, everybody is trying to do too much. If you just relax and execute, you would be amazed at how this game has a way of evening itself out. I feel like that applies not only in a jam situation but also in spring training or other tough situations in life.”

Hayhurst’s first book has received glowing reviews from many sports analysts, including Bob Costas, Tim McCarver and Keith Olbermann. With all the critical acclaim surrounding the release of The Bullpen Gospels, I asked Hayhurst if this has caught him by surprise.

“Yes, I am surprised. First of all, I didn't think any of these guys would read it,” Hayhurst said with a laugh. “Secondly, I didn't think that people would be okay with me writing a book while I was playing and it not being an exposé book, which it isn't. I am proud of the fact that people are getting that and they are happy to continue saying the book is worth reading; that's important to me.”

Hayhurst has also made use of the Internet and social networking sites like Twitter to reach out to baseball fans. Using the name, The Garfoose (a mystical creature invented by Hayhurst - a half-giraffe, half-moose, fire breathing, wi-fi enabled protector of the magical baseball groves), baseball fans have the opportunity to reach out, be interactive, share their stories or in my case, ask for an interview. When the devastating earthquake struck in Haiti, Hayhurst asked his fans, also known as "Garfooslings", to donate any amount they could to a relief organization. The Garfooslings came through for Hayhurst and the people of Haiti, donating over $1,400 dollars, with Hayhurst personally phoning some of the contributors to thank them for their efforts.

“I feel like social networking sites are a great way to engage fans directly. Once I got into it, I realized it was a great platform for all sorts of things. When you are in sports, you lose a lot of your anonymity because it is such a pervasive thing; there is always a microphone, a camera, or a reporter. It is like any really useful tool, you can use it in the wrong way or you can use it the right way. I have really tried hard to use it the right way.”

A unique and refreshing voice in the world of baseball, perhaps it is best to let Hayhurst wrap up this article in his own words.

“I always wanted to be Dirk Hayhurst and be different. If that means I have a large, yellow, purple, fire breathing Garfoose in the bullpen with me, then that’s what it means. I want to be who I am; I don’t want to be who people tell me I am.”

For more information on The Bullpen Gospels and the mystical Garfoose, visit Hayhurst’s website, http://www.dirkhayhurst.com/. Have a great sports day everyone.

A shorter version of this article first appeared in the February edition of Main Street. To take a look at a great community newspaper, drop by http://www.mainstreetweeknews.com/.

Photo: Dirk Hayhurst during his time with the San Diego Padres... taken by SD Dirk on Flickr.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lovely article. The book is not a novel though, is it? I was pretty sure it was non-fiction.

The Voice of Sport said...

Thanks for the compliment - and the editing "catch"... Was trying to be fancy with the word "novel", but yes, as a work of non-fiction, it is a book... Cheers - The Voice