Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran

The Major League Baseball season lasts six months but there are 14 days during the season (not counting the All-Star break) that I struggle with when the Arizona Diamondbacks have a day off. Sure there are other teams playing but it’s just not the same. It’s like watching your best friend’s kid sister in a dance recital. You know it’s dancing but you would never compare it to real dancing.

During these rare off-days I try to maintain my sanity by finding other baseball activities that can get me through that seemingly endless 24-hour period when the Diamondbacks are again in action.

During this particular off-day I decided to peruse the stack of reading material that has accumulated since Opening Day. Each one contained something of interest but nothing that jumped out at me until I stumbled upon a book I had received for Christmas but somehow got lost in the clutter of my office.

The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran was written by Dirk Hayhurst; a relief pitcher initially drafted by the San Diego Padres. It chronicles his time in the minor leagues and gives a glimpse into the life of a professional baseball player.

The book was not so much a story about baseball as it was a story about life. From the self-doubts each of us have in our careers to the challenges we have dealing with a less than perfect family this book has a message that despite all of our struggles there are lessons all around us if we just take time to look and listen.

As an avid baseball fan who once had dreams of playing professional baseball I related to many of the things Hayhurst described in his journey. He spoke of questioning sanity for following a dream that resulted in all-night bus trips followed by games in run-down stadiums in front of crazed fans that hounded players for baseballs and autographs. His descriptions closely matched my experiences in Independent baseball (although most of us would have looked upon Hayhurst as living the dream just playing Single-A ball).

Few fans stop to consider the life of a minor league player. It’s easy to look at the game’s superstars and think all professional baseball players live in multi-million dollar homes and drive fancy foreign cars that they choose from a 10-car garage. Hayhurst’s tale of Spring Training and dealing with adversity and setbacks makes you appreciate how hard this game is and the toll it takes on a player’s life.

This is not a book that was written to make you feel sorry for those that don’t make the big leagues. Instead it is a journey of the ups and downs that are a part of everyday baseball; the joys of comradery that occurs when you put 25 men together for 6 months and the sorrows felt when inevitable failure snatches away what you thought was within your grasp.

Bullpen Gospels should be required reading for any kid who thinks he wants to become a professional baseball player. Not to discourage him from following his dream but for him to understand what baseball is and how the game will not define you as a person.

It’s one of those rare books that mixes humor with deep soul-searching contemplation to rivet the reader and make them think not just about the book and the story but about themselves. The final chapter is a great summary of the journey and gives us an appreciation of the game of baseball and what it can mean if given the chance.

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