Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Out of My League (2012)

By Dirk Hayhurst

Dirk Hayhurst's first book, "The Bullpen Gospels," was a critical favorite for its portrayal of life in minor league baseball.

His second book, "Out of My League," is even better.

You won't find a better look at what can happen when your dreams come true - a part that usually isn't discussed.

Hayhurst took the long way to success in baseball. He played in college, and then slowly but agonizingly surely climbed the ladder of organized pro ball. A lesser man probably would have given up along the way.

The pitcher picks up where he left off in the last book, winning a Double A title in the San Diego Padres' farm system. He comes home from that upbeat moment to a typical offseason by his standards, which means sleeping in his grandmother's house, dealing with his family's issues, and working in a store to earn spending money. It's quite dramatic even if it doesn't sound like a baseball book.

Good things follow quickly, though. He meets a woman who he soon realizes is a perfect partner for life's journeys, and he makes the Triple-A roster of the Padres' team in Portland, Oregon. Hayhurst details the odd life of long road trips and thrown-together teammates here, which somewhat resembles the first book in tone. He also pitches well, showing he belongs in AAA ball. Hayhurst again is a little different than the average player, and not just because he writes for Baseball America in his spare time. He's quite mature and thoughtful.

Life changes dramatically in August when Hayhurst finds out he has been called up to the Padres. Welcome to the Show - home of chartered aircraft, first-class hotels, and big minimum salaries, enough to get his marriage off to a better financial start. His first appearance guarantees that his name will be in the record books forever.

As Hayhurst walks us through those major-league days, it's easy to realize the pressures involved. That time, at least, he wasn't up to the challenge, as he gets knocked around by big-league hitters. It's gripping stuff, as the frustrations bubble over on to everyone around him. By the way, the epilogue does provide some good news that's more than welcome to all concerned.

As with the first book, I didn't find much material that struck me as laugh-out-loud funny - although others certain have. I am willing to admit, though, that the idea of a transvestite convention in Salt Lake City is, however, um, unexpected, Are 406 pages too many? Maybe a little, and perhaps some of the personal information could have been edited down a little, but it all goes by pretty quickly.

"Out of My League" was written about the 2008 season, but the experiences are universal and timeless. Looks like Hayhurst has added an extra pitch to his writing arsenal.

Four stars

Learn more about this book from amazon.com.

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