Years ago when the Harry Potter phenomenon was in its rising infancy, some avoided the books judging them to be nefarious tools of the devil intent on dragging the innocent into the darkness of witchcraft and black magic. Upon reading the books I discovered that they were rather about loyalty, friendship, love, and sacrifice. Magic and spells and wizards only formed the context, the whimsical setting within which these greater themes could be played out.
So, I understand why one who is not a sports or baseball fan may pass by a book with the title The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran upon the presumption that it is a book about games and stats and standings intent on dragging the uninitiated into the darkness of boredom. Baseball here forms only a context, the whimsical setting for what is really far more a book about life and how it is lived.
Dirk Hayhurst is a minor league veteran, a pitcher recently released by the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system who is now living in Ohio with his wife and dog. While he labored in the minor leagues, and for a brief stint in the Bigs, he passed his time observing and writing. I’m not sure what kind of pitcher he was, but as a storyteller, he is among the best.
Yes, we get here stories of life on the road and in the locker rooms of single-A and double-A baseball, memorably and humorously told. Readers should know that he records what he sees and hears. Locker room topics and language can be raw. You have been warned.
The stories he tells about himself, his family, and his teammates are true. But as a skilled teller of tales, he causes us to care about these people as characters in a larger story of struggle, conflict, disappointment, and redemption. It is often funny, occasionally poignant, always full of wisdom, but never sentimental.
Last Friday I was at my son’s basketball practice, reading this book. What cooler stuff to be reading among other ‘sporting’ parents than a book ‘about’ sports. It was a good cover, until I found myself fighting back tears. It is definitely NOT cool to be caught crying in the bleachers of your son’s basketball practice.
It is, as I said, a book about life. Honest. True. I’m glad I read it.