Saturday, January 29, 2011
Book Review: The Bullpen Gospels
In 2007 Dirk Hayhurst's professional baseball career seemed to be on a fast track to retirement. Hayhurst's story of that season is the meat of his book The Bullpen Gospels. It is a different kind of baseball story. There is the usual locker room vulgarity which Hayhurst does a fabulous job of detailing-from bouts with food poisoning, to being "spider-manned" while exiting the bus' toilet, to the always amusing kangaroo courts.
More than anything, however, Hayhurst's story is is of a pitcher on the brink of oblivion. While it is clear as the story unravels that he has talent, he is also overwhelmed with self-doubt that undermines his ability to give the game his all. We follow his tale as he travels to spring training in Peoria with Padres, receives a disappointing demotion to the Class A Lake Elsinore Storm in the California League, and is promoted to the AA San Antonio Missions in the Texas League.
The book wraps up with the story of the Missions capturing the Texas League title, and his subsequent marriage and promotion to the AAA Portland Beavers, and the majors in 2008. Bullpen Gospels has been likened to Jim Bouton's Ball Four, and it has that shocking hilarity element to it, but I think it's a lot more. It's ultimately a feel good story about a guy who was no longer perceived as a prospect by his parent club, but found a way to win the mental game and reach his dreams. It's not Shakespeare, or even Thomas Boswell, but it's a great story and Hayhurst tells is well.