A while back, Fasolamatt suggested we read "The Bullpen Gospels," a book released earlier this year by Dirk Hayhurst that chronicles his season in baseball's minor leagues in 2007. We finished the book a couple of weeks back and, after reading it, thought Hayhurst might make an interesting interview subject. After a 40-minute phone conversation Wednesday, that intuition was proven true. A good chunk of the interview will run in Sunday's Star Tribune, but some of the outtakes that didn't make the cut for various reasons are below. For more info on Hayhurst, who has spent time in the majors with the Padres and Blue Jays, check out his web site. OK, here we go:
Hayhurst on how he managed to provide a lot of detail without burning bridges with an "expose-style" book: It was not the point. As soon as that happened, the whole book could have this great point about how we look at ourselves, the value of a jersey, the value of integrity, but if there was one stray line in the book that says, “I thought Trevor Hoffman was a [redacted],” … all you would hear about was that line. [Note: Based on his high opinion of Hoffman in the book, we have to imagine that example was just used for humor].
Hayhurst on what the book is not: I stayed away from the “every at bat is a glorious at bat. Just being on the field is a dream come true.” All that Disneyland magic, appealing to what people think – if you do any job long enough, it’s not wonderful. There comes a point in every career where you think, “Why am I here?” … And I wasn’t afraid to talk about it. I think that level of honesty mixed with maybe a knack for writing it the right way, really kind of 1) caught people off guard, like you said, and 2) gave people what people what they wanted, which is that look at sports that isn’t pomp and circumstance but raw and relatable. … I think a lot of us are afraid to knock ourselves down in order to deliver a story that might have some impact or relevance to other people. If you can get out of the way of your own self-obsession, your story, even if it’s broken, can help other people.
Hayhurst on why he didn't reveal until about 200 pages into the book that at the time he was, 1) a virgin and 2) a non-drinker, how neither of those factors were really played up in the book, and the dynamics of both of those things in a clubhouse: Well, I’ve been that way for a long time. Everyone I came up through the system with, and the guys in Double-A that I was with, they knew that already. … But I got into pro ball as a really obnoxiously overbearing fundamentalist Christian. And I still have that belief system, though it’s evolved over time, and I’m not quite so hard-core with it, but in the sports world you’re indoctrinated into an existence that, for lack for a better word, is simple. We bond through drinking together, sharing those stories. That’s what we do. I can accept that. … The drinking, the chasing tail, it just never was for me. I had a fundamental set of beliefs that separated me from that. So when we get into these conversations, I always ducked around it. Not because I was ashamed of what I believed in, but because if I say I don’t drink, guys will think it’s because I think I’m better than them or don’t want to be a part of them. They won’t accept the fact that my brother’s an alcoholic and they’ll take it personally. Or that I’m waiting until marriage. [Note: Hayhurst is now married]. Oh, do you think we’re all heathens then? I would keep it to myself. And to perpetuate the faith, it wasn’t like I had to tell people, “Hey, I’m a virgin who doesn’t drink. Jesus loves you.”
Hayhurst: It’s weird thinking that, what you and I just talked about – that book – is possibly the legacy that I’ll leave in baseball far beyond what I ever do on the field. … I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m just curious, I ask everybody: how do you think it stacks up? It’s one of those books where people are constantly comparing it to other books. … But I’m worried about the legacy of the book.
RandBall: I don’t want to make a comparison between it and other sports books. I read “Ball Four” and a decent number of other baseball books that are good in their own right. I think this one was different. ... I identified more with the personal journey of it and your realizations throughout it and your take on things.
Hayhurst: Well, that’s what I was hoping for.