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.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.