The best inside baseball books have to be written by an outsider.
Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” was outstanding because he was a misfit willing to break the code that what ensured that what happened in a clubhouse stayed in the clubhouse. Pat Jordan’s “A False Spring” was able to explain his life as a failed minor league prospect because he had the perspective of time to go back and look from the outside at what went wrong.
And in Dirk Hayhurst’s case, his first book “The Bullpen Gospels” and now his equally excellent second book “Out Of My League” explain life in the minors and the major leagues like you’ve never read it before, in large part because he’s an outsider trying to fit in.
Hayhurst, who has written a column for Baseball America called the “Non-Prospect Diaries”, made the New York Times Bestseller list with “The Bullpen Gospels.” His second book is just as good, and maybe even a little more accessible to the general public.
Hayhurst is a good teammate who isn’t looking to expose anyone else’s deepest and darkest secrets, although he’s willing to share his own. Any teammates who aren’t presented in the most glowing of terms are turned into composite characters or otherwise obscured by a nickname.
But in “Out Of My League,” Hayhurst’s callup to the big leagues is fascinating because he isn’t fitting in. As a nervous rookie, Hayhurst wants to succeed on the mound, but he’s equally worried about screwing up in the clubhouse. He wants to perfectly pack the candy bag that’s the job of the bullpen’s lowest-tenured rookie. He wants to get up the nerve to actually talk to legendary closer and teammate Trevor Hoffman.
Because he’s working hard to fit in, and because he’s such a skilled writer, Hayhurst manages to make the inaccessible world of the big league clubhouse accessible. You may not fit in, but reading “Out Of My League” you get a better feel for what it’s like to walk through those doors than any other book you can find.
“Out Of My League” covers quite a year for Hayhurst, in addition to making it to the big leagues, Hayhurst also is trying to help plan his upcoming wedding long distance with his fiance. The story weaves the difficulties of a long-distance relationship in between accounts of the difficulties of figuring out how to get a big league hitter out. And it manages to do it in a way that makes both parts of Hayhurst’s story equally compelling.