I’m going to ask you to remember something for me. I want you to recall a day in the past when you watched a sports hero do an interview. Not the apologetic-for-scandal type, nor the post-game-wrapup type, but the “I just experienced a once-in-a-lifetime, this-moment-means-everything” type. Picture it. There he or she is; soppy, champagne soaked clothes clinging to a jubilant frame. A smile painted across their face, hair matted to their head. Then they say those wonderful words, “I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was little.”
On March 30 my first book about my life in baseball came out. A book that has very much to do with the moment I just asked you to recall. When I wrote it, I did so thinking of the instant I would get to stare into a camera and say that dreamy line, and, more importantly, the grim realization it would probably never happen.
For every great champion there are dozens upon dozens who won’t reach their goal. They’ll chase and sacrifice, just like their heroes on television, but they’ll come up short. There will be no moment of vindication, rather, a sobering shock of reality as it coldly splashes the dreamer’s face. All athletes know this could be their rude awakening, but we play on—confident, hopeful, self-assured. After all, odds were meant to be beaten.
But what is it like to wake up and realize you may be one of the people who don’t make it? Can you express that in a world of fans who’d love to have your job? Can you say you’re afraid, uncertain, unsatisfied with your life, and will anyone understand? Will you? Could you live with yourself if you just walked away? All athletes are competitors, but in the end, the biggest competition any of us will ever know is not on a playing field, but on the face of a clock.
That’s what I wrote about: the balance of these things, the value of our dreams, the time we have to chase them, and their hard price in reality. Of fantasy and a sometimes blindly ignored set of facts. And of what it’s like to come through it all with more than just soppy clothes and a beaming smile, but perspective culled from our terminal competition with time. I discovered we are all more valuable then what we accomplish in our profession—Big or minor league—and I shared it as best I could.
When I first set pen to paper in 2007, I did so thinking it would be my last season in the sport. Coming into the year my numbers were poor, and in a industry where you are either a prospect or nothing, I did not exist. I thought I would write a journal of my last accounts as a baseball player. Maybe, some day, turn the work into a book. Little did I know I would record the most amazing year of my life, on and off the field, for so many reasons I can’t list them all here.
Also, little did I know I would be treated like a madman by my teammates, as if I was assembling a bomb in my locker every time I documented my day. Much like Jim Bouton before me, my life as baseball player taking notes was met with hostility and incredulity. Within a week of my first post on Baseball America I was back-roomed by management and threatened by angry teammates with consequences of what would happen should I record their doings. I was called a rat, a snake, and a traitor. On the other side of the critical spectrum, my writing received chastisement for not being scandalous enough, or close enough in character to those great sports writers who preceded me. The whole world seemed against and all I could offer was: I am, indeed, not a second coming sports writer, I am merely the first me, and to this day the only person rendered bare in my writing is, again, myself.
Now I receive letters from readers who say my writing touched them. Former teammates call and thank me for taking them back in time. I am known not for being a hero, but for honestly expressing wonder, doubt, and elation in a sport that has been scared by the written word. I’ve always wanted impact people’s lives through this sport, and I believe I have done that. My writing has turned out to be a hidden treasure, one that has enriched my life by allowing me to give to others through stories and recollections.
I highly doubt I will ever get to stand up in front of a camera and be sprayed with champagne for writing a book, but I don’t need to be. I know life is more than championship-style celebrations. However, this will not stop me from saying I have dreamed of this moment since I was little—a little minor leaguer, that is, with little confidence, and little understanding of how rich and wonderful our life can be when we realize the best parts of us aren’t found in the glorious moments, but in weathering and overcoming the hard ones.
Thank you, reader, for making this moment possible.
You can learn more about Dirk Hayhurst and his book, “The Bullpen Gospels,” by visiting www.DirkHayhurst.com. His book is available at wherever books are sold.
Read an additional excerpt here. http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/04/excerpt-from-the-bullpen-gospels