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Bigger Than the Game: Dirk Hayhurst’s latest, bravest and most emotionally moving book yet

Feb 25, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT

Bigger Than the Game

Dirk Hayhurst has a new book out. It’s his third. The first was about life in the minors. The second was about breaking into the bigs. This one — called Bigger Than the Game — is about the life of an injured and then re-habbing pitcher who, whether he knew it or not, was soon to be out of baseball altogether.

While one might feel that the drama of breaking into the game and hitting the bigs would be the greatest, Bigger Than the Game is easily the most emotionally affecting of Hayhurst’s books. Part of that is because we know so much about him now through his other books and TV and radio appearances or, if we’re lucky enough, because we’ve met him in person. His struggles mean more now than when he was just an oddity of a minor leaguer telling us interesting anecdotes from the inside. As I read Bigger Than the Game I knew what would happen to Hayhurst. Where his life would take him between the time of the events he was describing in the book and the present day. It made every moment on the operating table, in rehab and in the clubhouse seem so much more significant, And, at times, so much sadder.

Not that it’s a dreary read by any means. Hayhurst, for everything he went through in his childhood and his baseball journey, is nothing if not an optimist. And a good-humored one at that. He is able to find laughs and the brighter side of some very dark things on a pretty consistent basis. His teammates in Toronto may not have treated him well when he was trying to come back from his visits to Dr. Andrews, but Hayhurst usually has the last laugh. Or, if not a laugh, a positive and reflective insight to it all. He has constantly landed on his feet and you don’t doubt that he always will. And, best of all for us, he’ll tell us a lot of neat stories about things in baseball we can’t possibly know first hand as he stands back up again.

There are some weighty issues raised by Bigger Than the Game. Drug abuse. The stigma attached to a player reaching out for psychological help. Locker room bullying. The isolation a player can feel when he’s neither part of a team nor home with his family. Any of these may be tough to get through in someone else’s hands. But we’ve come so far with Hayhurst by now. We trust him and his voice. He’s a wonderful guide through this thorny thicket. And he continues to be one of the bravest writers to ever wear a baseball uniform.

Go here to get a copy of Bigger Than the Game. You’ll be happy you did.

  1. nymets4ever - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    why does this guy talk so much about “the game” he’s done absolutely nothing in?

    • proudlycanadian - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Why do you go out of your way pretending to be a jerk?

      • nymets4ever - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:41 AM

        Pointing out the fact that his entire baseball “career” lasted like 0.35 seconds isn’t me being a jerk, it’s the cold hard truth. Yet here he is on my TV talking up a storm on pre- and postgame shows and writing gigantic tomes of all his amazing baseball wisdom. All this from a guy who’s gotten about 5 more major league hitters out than the fly who’s buzzing outside my window.

      • proudlycanadian - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:42 AM


      • koufaxmitzvah - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        I don’t think there’s any pretend to this jerkwad.

        He’s 100% Guano.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        Here is nymets4ever telling me all he has to know about life, baseball, and commenting on the Interwebs, but really, what are his qualifications?

      • El Bravo - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        The Mets have done absolutely nothing relevant as a team in decades. Should we no longer consider them an MLB team? They clearly know nothing about the MLB.

      • nymets4ever - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        If you’re going to write 3 (and counting) huge tomes about your baseball career, it would be kinda nice for your career to, y’know, justify it? Greg Maddux deserves to write this much about his career. Steve Carlton. Tom Seaver. The fact that Dirk Hayhurst thinks he has this much to say about life as a baseball player, when his life as one lasted 0.35 seconds, is a shocking and hilarious display of hubris.

      • proudlycanadian - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        He is a much better writer than the vast majority of baseball players and baseball writers. Most professional baseball players either never make it to the major leagues, or just have a cup of coffee in the majors. Hayhurst’s experience parallels that of the vast majority of professional baseball players.

      • paperlions - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Careers don’t start in the majors, his career lasted nearly a decade, being drafted by the Padres in 2003 and retiring after 2011.

      • forsch31 - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        >>>”Pointing out the fact that his entire baseball “career” lasted like 0.35 seconds isn’t me being a jerk, it’s the cold hard truth.”

        His “entire” baseball career lasted 9 seasons and more than 700 innings as a starter and reliever. The cold hard truth is that anybody who apparently considers playing in the minors as a hobby is a jerk.

        And obviously is someone who thinks that Bull Durham was a waste of time. Who cares about movie centering on a player who was in the Show for only a day?

      • nbjays - Feb 25, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        The fact that nymets4ever considers a 250-300 page paperback book as a “huge tome” tels me all I need to know about his ability to read and process information. I assume the biggest book he ever read and understood was an Archie Double Digest.

        Him believing he is qualified to critique a writer he has never even read is a much bigger and more shocking display of hubris than anything he accuses Hayhurst of.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      why does this guy talk so much about “the game” he’s done absolutely nothing in?

      So why are you talking about baseball then? Using your “logic”, you shouldn’t talk at all since you’ve never played in the bigs.

      • nymets4ever - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        I don’t claim to be “one of the guys” who’s been there and done that and has a ton to say about all the little nuances of life as a big leaguer. By writing these tomes of his, Hayhurst is implicitly making that claim (I wouldn’t be surprised if he does explicitly at some point in the books too).

      • proudlycanadian - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        Very few baseball reporters have actually played the game in the big leagues either, yet they feel qualified to express their opinion.

      • chacochicken - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        Huge tomes? Hah, even Moneyball was around 300 pages, not exactly War and Peace. Guessing you aren’t a big reader.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        I don’t claim to be “one of the guys” who’s been there and done that and has a ton to say about all the little nuances of life as a big leaguer,

        Here’s a novel idea, read the f’ing book(s) first. His first one is about his life in the minor leagues, trying to work his way up. 99% of the book is about life in the minors, how it sucks to be paid so little, have to work other jobs to try to maintain the dream of playing in the bigs, and the unique family circumstances Hayhurst experiences along with trying to live a christian life in a somewhat hedonistic world. I may be getting the first and second confused, but I’m sure the only reference to “big leaguers” is when, I think it was Hoffman, recalls a speech Hayhurst gave during spring training and Hoffman not knowing wtf Hayhurst was saying.

    • zzalapski - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Are all your classmates from the School for Assholes this insecure about people with more fulfilling professional lives, or is it just you?

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      Why do you comment so much about a game you’ve done absolutely nothing in?

    • bobdira - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      By that logic managers who didn’t make it big in the majors (like the vast majority of successful managers) announcers and color commenters who didn’t make it in the bigs (like a large majority of successful broadcasters) don’t deserve their positions either.

      The comment you make is moronic. He doesn’t write about his experiences in the bigs, just his experiences in his baseball life. Great reading.

    • jjschiller - Feb 25, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      Says a clown on a sports blog…

    • dylanthom2013 - Feb 26, 2014 at 4:45 AM

      So I guess you shouldn’t talk about girls since it’s obvious you’ve never done anything in them…

    • 1historian - Feb 26, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      Fair enough question. You do seem to have stirred up a bit of a hornets’ next. Methinks you’re enjoying it.

    • tharm2012 - Feb 26, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      Obviously you haven’t read the books. If you had, you would know the books are about the struggles inherent in making it to the bigs and then being sidelined and shunned because of injuries. I’m happy to say that you don’t represent the majority of Mets’ fans who are very knowledgeable about the intricacies of the game that the fringe players must deal with. Thumbs down to your comment.

  2. buffalo65 - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    His career actually lasted a long time. Just because he spent limited time in the bigs, he still spent the better part of a decade in a career in baseball.

    • Old Gator - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      Thanks for making a point that should’ve been made earlier in this thread, Buffalo.

      Hayhurst is a fine writer – or, allowing for some major input from an editor/ghostwriter, he’s got some excellent synergy with whomever he works. In any event his writing is a pleasure, and his insights are often funny and profound. Writing that good is a general enhancement of one’s emotional and intellectual life. You can read Bullpen Gospels, for example, and then go watch Bull Durham with a genuinely elevated appreciation for its human drama beneath the dark comedy. Hayhurst’s not a one-trick pony, either – if you read Gospels and then Out of my League in sequence, you can also appreciate his growth and development as a literary craftsman.

      Moreover, in neither book does Hayhurst represent himself as a know-it-all about the game. If anything, they’re both chronicles of his process of learning humility before it, of coming to terms with how hard it is to play well, and of coming to terms with crushing disappointment and failure, and about seeking out other sources of self-worth. The books have a broadly human, and not an egotistical, focus.

      But since it’s clear that mutts4ever here hasn’t even read them – which puts him in the same debased category as mentally lethargic, frothing fundamentalists and tinpot neofascists who burn books they haven’t read or picket films they haven’t seen – he’s just busy running around setting fire to straw men in whose construction he doubtless expended less effort than he would have had to in order to read these excellent books in the first place.

      But most of all, he’s

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        He’s what? What? Don’t leave us hanging, man! I’m dying to know

        (all good authors know to leave the audience wanting more)

      • Old Gator - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Oooops, that mouse has a will of its own.

        But most of all, he’s for some reason generally soured on existence and committed to taking his frustrations out on the rest of us.

        Anyway, I’m delighted at this third installment of Hayhurst’s personal bildungsroman. I’ve just ordered meself a copy and am looking much forward to spending a forthcoming weekend sitting in my gazebo, sipping virgin pineapple daiquiris and settling in for a good read. The pleasures of retirement…..

      • stex52 - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        You’ll talk me into that retirement thing, yet, Gator. Between you and my wife.

        I appreciate the short picture of the books. I don’t read a lot of sports-oriented literature, so I was leaning away. May have to try it now.

      • Old Gator - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        By all means, do. Hayhurst is well on his way to becoming an important belletrist with staying power. I think he’s heading for the same constellation as the one that domiciles great baseball writers like Roger Angell, Bart Giamatti, Roger Kahn and – I will stand on Karl Marx’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say this – George Will.

      • nbjays - Feb 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        Thanks, Gator. I read both “Bullpen Gospels” and “Out of My League” (my kids gave me both for Christmas), and I loved them. I think that the writing is all Hayhurst… I don’t think he uses a ghostwriter at all, but the man sure tell a story and has a great way of blending the humour and human aspect of his writing. Anyone who can make you laugh AND cry in the same paragraph is a must-read, as far as I’m concerned. Nice to hear the new book is out, because I’ll be grabbing the ebook version of this one (if I can find it) ASAP.

      • 1historian - Feb 26, 2014 at 8:46 AM

        looks like he ran out of big words and had to stop.

        “frothing fundamentalists and tinpot neofascists” indeed

        “All work and no play makes Jack a peh bah pom bahoo.”

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