Bigger Than the Game

Bigger Than the Game: Dirk Hayhurst’s latest, bravest and most emotionally moving book yet

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Dirk Hayhurst has a new book out. It’s his third. The first was about life in the minors. The second was about breaking into the bigs. This one — called Bigger Than the Game — is about the life of an injured and then re-habbing pitcher who, whether he knew it or not, was soon to be out of baseball altogether.

While one might feel that the drama of breaking into the game and hitting the bigs would be the greatest, Bigger Than the Game is easily the most emotionally affecting of Hayhurst’s books. Part of that is because we know so much about him now through his other books and TV and radio appearances or, if we’re lucky enough, because we’ve met him in person. His struggles mean more now than when he was just an oddity of a minor leaguer telling us interesting anecdotes from the inside. As I read Bigger Than the Game I knew what would happen to Hayhurst. Where his life would take him between the time of the events he was describing in the book and the present day. It made every moment on the operating table, in rehab and in the clubhouse seem so much more significant, And, at times, so much sadder.

Not that it’s a dreary read by any means. Hayhurst, for everything he went through in his childhood and his baseball journey, is nothing if not an optimist. And a good-humored one at that. He is able to find laughs and the brighter side of some very dark things on a pretty consistent basis. His teammates in Toronto may not have treated him well when he was trying to come back from his visits to Dr. Andrews, but Hayhurst usually has the last laugh. Or, if not a laugh, a positive and reflective insight to it all. He has constantly landed on his feet and you don’t doubt that he always will. And, best of all for us, he’ll tell us a lot of neat stories about things in baseball we can’t possibly know first hand as he stands back up again.

There are some weighty issues raised by Bigger Than the Game. Drug abuse. The stigma attached to a player reaching out for psychological help. Locker room bullying. The isolation a player can feel when he’s neither part of a team nor home with his family. Any of these may be tough to get through in someone else’s hands. But we’ve come so far with Hayhurst by now. We trust him and his voice. He’s a wonderful guide through this thorny thicket. And he continues to be one of the bravest writers to ever wear a baseball uniform.

Go here to get a copy of Bigger Than the Game. You’ll be happy you did.

Indians sign Brandon Guyer to a two-year extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates Rajai Davis #20 two-run home run during the eighth inning to tie the game 6-6 against the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $5 million contract with a club option for 2019.

The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.

Nice signing.

Sarasota County to build the Braves a new spring training facility

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The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.

Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:

The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.

It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.

But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.

One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.