Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the NPB (and Hanshin Tigers) related books and dive into something a little bit lighter, fluffier, funnier. Dirk Hayhurst tells his life story as a minor leaguer who dreamed of making it to the bigs someday. Written with zest and urbanity but also a casualness that reflects the world of baseball (from the inside), Out of My League has so many quirky characters and episodes that it makes you question whether this could possibly be a work of nonfiction. But a quick fact check on the most accurate website out there, Wikipedia, reveals that even if the actual conversations in the narrative have been embellished (couldn’t Wiki-check those), the man’s career trajectory and personal life details can be trusted.
Hayhurst grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family and in some ways used baseball to escape his harsh domestic reality. The story starts with the right-handed pitcher spending the offseason living on a mattress in his cranky grandmother’s spare room. He is doubting whether he has what it takes to keep living the pauper’s life that is a career minor leaguer’s world, trying to figure out how to escape the truth: he works an electronics store job in the offseason, drives a beat-up car, can’t stand anyone in his family, including his grandmother, and is about to start a relationship with a girl he met through an online dating service.
Heading into the season, Hayhurst battles to figure out how to grow his relationship at a distance while dealing with success on the field, which, oddly enough, adds to his stress levels even more than his half-baked life as a store clerk squatting with an old lady. (Spoiler alert…) When he reaches the majors at long last, he finds that he has become a completely different man, one that he cannot stand.
The book is such a quick read and is filled with great stories about locker room life, shedding light on (and shattering illusions of) the so-called glamor of major league baseball. It was thoroughly enjoyable, even educational, and had a great message at the end of the book, when Dirk calls his estranged old man the night before his wedding. (I’ll spare you from excessive spoilers – you’ll have to read it yourself if you want to know what he was told.)
All this to say, I thought I was escaping from NPB baseball literature for “just one book” but now find myself compelled to get my hands and eyes on all of Hayhurst’s writings now. You may not have had a hugely successful baseball career, Mr. Hayhurst, but you have found your true calling (aside from being a great husband): tickling the ribs of baseball fans everywhere.