Dirk’s Back

No one misses what goes on in the big leagues. No one. Everything you’ve done, are doing, or will ever do—from glory to complete and utter disaster—is recorded there, in multiple slow motion angles behind high definition lenses. Commentators will relay it, analysts will review it, and you will relive it. For better or worse, it’s immortal.

Dirk HayhurstThat’s why you play, of course. The reason you brave odds that make getting struck by lightening seem a sure thing. The reason you chase a dream that runs countless would-be prospects into poverty. The chance at immortality beckons you on. You could have it, be a legend in the eyes of a child, a star in the gaze of the masses, a story on the lips of grim and weathered life-long fans. Or, you could be a joke that simply won’t die.  Like I said, no misses what goes on up there.

I was well aware of this when I fumed into the visiting locker room after unceremoniously leaving a game against the Nationals. At the time, the Nats were the worst team in baseball, and I was asked to get three measly outs against them. Instead, I loaded the bases by, among other things, blowing a play at first that I’ve been working on since I was in Little League.

A ground ball to the right side of the infield means the pitcher breaks to first to cover the bag. This time, as the ball rolled, pulling wide the first basemen as the runner jetted down the line, I stood on the mound with my thumb up my . . . I was pulled shortly after and made the walk of shame into the shadows.

I threw my glove, torn off in disgust, into my locker, my hat and jersey following after. Each piece landed where heaved—the first time I hit my spots in three consecutive attempts all night. Next, I flopped into my locker chair and clasped my sweaty brow in my hands.

Just how bad was this going to look on my permanent record? How did the commentators describe it? What were the coaches thinking? What would the sports writers in my hometown print? Would the whispers of my legend now turn into chuckles?

Across the locker room’s plush interior, in a comfortable leather conference chair, sat one of my senior teammates—the type a rookie like me spends most of his time being silent in the presence of or fetching Gatorades for. Having more time in the bigs than I had in facial hair, he sat aloof, reclined with legs up, watching the game via the locker room’s video feed in between digesting glances at pitching statistics in case his bat was called from the bench. He was oblivious to me, my frustration, and the flurry of foul words that accompanied it. To him, this was just another day at the office and I a noisy novice.

When my anger subsided, giving way to desperation, I came whimpering to the veteran at his post. I led off with small talk, but what I really wanted was to hear him, a man of experience, tell me I was OK, that maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“Embarrassed yourself on that ball to first, huh?” he said.

My head sunk immediately.

“Don’t worry about it.” He offered dismissively, eyes still on the screen above.

“That’s easy for you to say, you’ve got more than 10 years in the show. I’m still trying to prove I can stick.”

“You’ll get more chances. You did a lot of stuff right,” he added. I might have, but I couldn’t remember any of them at the time.

“So what if I did,” I continued my pouting, “It only takes one big blunder like that and then everyone thinks you can’t get the job done.”

I was whining, and he knew it. My veteran turned therapist sat up and looked at me. “People don’t think about that stuff every second, not like you are right now—they have their own issues,” he said. “Nothing is as big as it seems in the moment. The only person sitting around keeping track of all the dumb stuff you do, is you. If you let it go, it doesn’t matter what other people remember.” He exhaled casually, then put his feet back up, “You’ll get more chances. Worry about those, they’re the ones that matter now.

“Oh,” he lifted one eyebrow as he glanced my way one final time, “and just so we’re clear, I’d tell you that whether you messed up today, or not.”

I thought about the words for moment, they were wise indeed. “Thanks” I said, that’s some good advice.”

“I know,” he replied. “Now go grab me a Gatorade.”

Dirk’s Book, The Bullpen Gospels, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

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