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.