The Bullpen Gospels: A Non-Prospect’s Pursuit of the Major Leagues and the Meaning of Life by Dirk Hayhurst
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am declaring this the Book of the Year already. Yes, I have it as a goal to read at least 36 more books, but I sincerely doubt any will touch me as deeply. Lots of laughter, and then lots of poignant moments and yeah, a tear filled ending. Just read it!
As a lifelong fan of baseball, and a Padres fan for the past 20 years, I would have picked this book up on my own I am sure. However, because it came so highly praised by Keith Olbermann and Bob Costas, I made the impulse decision when Keith first wrote about it to put it on pre-order at Amazon. So I was breaking my plan for this year of reading only books in my existing pile and put this one right at the front of the line when it arrived last week.
Rarely will a book meet the expectations of such early reviews, but this one, for me at least surpassed them.
I finished it just now and was, quite literally, crying at the end. In fact, the ending immediately flashed me to the ending of Field of Dreams (yeah, I cry like a baby at that one every damn time too). In some ways I think this is a book much like that movie. Baseball is prominent of course, but at it’s heart, this is not *really* a baseball book. Sure, there are often hysterical stories about minor league team antics. But there are very few in the field, pitch by pitch descriptions of games. It’s much more about the life and interactions that go on before and after game time. It’s *really* about how the author struggles with finding himself and his place in life outside the lines of a baseball diamond. How he views himself when the uniform is not on – and how the man in the uniform can best use the little bit of notoriety that being a professional baseball player gives him. I particularly love how he went into the game with a set of personal rules that he did not break. The reasons behind those rules showed a wisdom and self awareness that he clearly didn’t realize he had, but which crop up throughout the book.
On a personal note this was probably even more fun for me to read since it was about the farm teams for my home team and I’ve always kept an eye on our prospects at all levels. The Lake Elsinore Storm are just up the freeway & I remember well the 2007 championship run of the Texas League Missions. I remember the author when he made his major league debut because we had a lot of fun saying “Hay-who?” when he was called up. Hey, it was a BAD year for the Padres & by then the fans were looking for any reason to laugh or we would cry! Mostly I hold a special place in my heart for #51 on the Padres not because of his accomplishments on the mound, but because of what I have always known him to be around town as someone who lives in my community. Without spoiling anything for my Padres friends who I know will read this book, let’s just say that Hoffy again proves himself to be a Hall of Famer in the game of life.
It sounds like a perfect book for when they boys of summer have a day off. I’ll add it to my list.