Book Review – The Bullpen Gospels

When I went down south a few weeks ago on a “scouting” trip I finally had some free time to read a couple of books I had been eagerly anticipating.  So I purchased The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri and The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst at my local Chapters (yeah, I’m still old school) and thought I would share a quick review on the latter today.

The Bullpen Gospels is written by former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Dirk Hayhurst who takes the reader on an emotional ride into what life is really like behind the scenes of pro baseball.   I have to say if there was ever a book that drew my complete, undivided attention after only one page it would have to be this one. 

Mr. Hayhurst is an imaginative and well spoken introvert living out his dream of “making the show” and at times his inner anguish and pain bleeds through the pages as he stumbles, triumphs and staggers through life in the minor leagues.  All former pitchers, at any level will appreciate his battle with the “Baseball Reaper” the unseen force causing untimely wildness, jet streams out to left and cheap hits to fall in.

 Although some of the identities of fellow teammates and coaches were changed the book spares no detail of what life is really like for a bunch of overgrown kids trying to make a childhood dream a reality.  Reading about what really goes on from game to game in the bullpen was a real pleasure and next time I am at a game I might feel compelled to watch ‘the pen’ the whole time.

Growing up with a broken down father and an abusive, raging alcoholic brother Dirk almost uses baseball as an outlet.  His unhappy family a daily reminder of why he is putting himself through the cruel climb to the major leagues.  Dirk explains what it is like if you weren’t drafted in the first round and the team doesn’t have much “invested” in you.

Find out about life on the road, the worst type of roommate you can have and how the team deals with zany minor offenses in “Kangaroo Court”.  I was literally laughing out loud half the time I was reading this book and had a heck of a time explaining how a book about baseball could be so humorous.

Here is a quick snippet of the minor league road trip “seat hierarchy”; it involves an unexpected but deserving victim:

As soon as the bus rolled its last inch and its pneumatic brakes exhaled, signalling a full stop, the doors folded open and the gang burst onto it like zombies in a cheap horror flick.  I got on last.  There was no reason for me to rush.

Part of being the oldest guy on the team with higher-level time is I get whatever seat I want, regardless if someone else has it or not.  It’s baseball tradition that older guys get the pick of the seating litter, and always has been.  I’m not sure where the tradition originated, but it is what it is, and I for one was not going to challenge it.

I walked up the steps to the bus aisle proper and stared down it like Death looking for his next victim.  The occupants who had already gotten comfortable held their breath as I made my way down the aisle.  Some players pretended to look away, as if I didn’t exist.  The age hierarchy of priority seating was law, and it was mine to enforce however I saw fit.  I came to a stop in front of the seat I usually take, the one with the extra inches of precious legroom.  It was occupied by Matt Bush.

“Beat it, Bush,” I said, like a king throwing the jester from his thrown.

“Come on man, are you serious”? Is his defense, no one, regardless of the round they were drafted in, would be happy about this.

“Hell yes, I’m serious.  I’m the oldest guy in the Cal League.  Now gimme my damn seat!”

Bush rolled his eyes, then retreated to another location.

If you want a good, honest baseball read than I highly recommend The Bullpen Gospels.  It was definitely one of the most entertaining sports books I have ever read and my only beef is that it ended far too quickly.  This well written effort will leave the reader craving more and itching to go pick up “Out Of My League” – Dirk Hayhurst’s second foray into the writing world.

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