So Dirk Hayhurst got hazed. In an interview with the Toronto Star, the former big league pitcher—and author of The Bullpen Gospels and Out of My League, which comes out later this month—expresses dismay at the reaction of some of his Blue Jays teammates when it came to his role as a part-time writer:
But then you had guys that were jackasses. And every team has them. These are the guys that look at baseball as a religious thing, and you never break the code. And nobody knows where the code came from, but you just can’t break it. So here comes Dirk Hayhurst, fringy guy on a search for meaning and purpose and maybe big-league fame if I could get it, and I’m just writing down stories and asking big, uncomfortable questions about the validity of our existence as ballplayers, and guys were not happy about that. And as long as you’re playing well, they’re not going to call you out about it, and I was pitching well. But then I got hurt and the gloves came off, and it was like, “Dirk, you need to apologize to the team. You need to bring everybody together and tell them you’re out of line for what you’re doing.”
He goes on to quote anonymous teammates who told him that he was making the team uncomfortable by writing about his baseball experience.
Well, of course he was.
Hayhurst should know more than most about the insular nature of a big league clubhouse, how even players who are media-friendly—by no means in the majority—frequently keep their distance from the press.
He should also know that a clubhouse is sacrosanct in the minds of its occupants. It’s the one place they can be loud, loose and raunchy, as ballplayers are, with nobody to judge them because nobody outside the team knows the true depth of what goes on.
Hayhurst must understand that an insider who starts to take notes, regardless of his intentions, will invariably make his teammates uncomfortable. Never mind that The Bullpen Gospels—a fine book, it should be mentioned—hardly burned any bridges. Hayhurst was tactful and respectful with his execution, telling stories in which nobody (save occasionally for Hayhurst himself) came out much the worse for wear.
Still, if he had no inkling that his literary aspirations would be interpreted poorly by at least some of his teammates—and that a few guys is all it takes to turn a clubhouse—he was willfully ignorant. A squeaky-clean publication record doesn’t count for a whole lot in a group that doesn’t count reading as one of its favorite pursuits.
Jim Bouton went through similar travails after Ball Four came out, but by that point he was a former 20-game winner very close to the end of his career. Hayhurst, in contrast, had pitched all of 10 big league games prior to that season in Toronto, with a 9.72 ERA. Stars get away with things that average players do not, and veterans have more leeway than rookies; Hayhurst was neither star nor veteran.
Hayhurst’s mistake was in approaching the situation rationally, as a normal human being would. He expected that because he was open about his plans, and made his work public for teammates to review, that he would subsequently be afforded a modicum of leeway, and that his literary endeavors would not affect his clubhouse standing.
Had Hayhurst approached the situation from the perspective of a ballplayer—not an intellectually inquisitive one, like himself, but an overgrown kid who gets to live the frat-house life into his 20s and 30s, and whose natural enemy is anyone who might impede upon his unique lifestyle—he might have been more cautious. At the very least, he wouldn’t have been surprised at the reaction he ultimately received.
3 thoughts on “Hayhurst Takes Notes in the Clubhouse, Gets Offended When People Take Exception To his Taking of Notes in the Clubhouse”
Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit – is a book of a similar type by a similar kind of guy (a Yale graduate, now a doctor). The book is a great read, although its accuracy has been questioned in spots. I believe that McCarthy was entirely clandestine about his note-taking. If I remember correctly, he had a book contract in place before he started the season’s play.
This is funny, cute in a way, but ultimately reaching. You act like I didn’t know this stuff. Or at least you make it sound that way since you don’t quote the full extent of the article. It’s almost like you forget I had been writing in the game for four years before I got to this point. I’m happy to be grist for your mill, of course, we writers must survive… But at least do me the justice of getting the facts straight before you set off to mark yourself as an authority for the sake of more book sales.
First: Great to hear from you, Dirk. Thanks for checking in.
You say I act like you didn’t understand the possible ramifications of your clubhouse literary endeavors, but that isn’t quite the case. It’d be foolish to assume that any member of a clubhouse in professional baseball would be oblivious to the general tenor of its occupants. What I took issue with was your surprise that some of your teammates would be less than pleased by an intrusion on their privacy, at a level they’d not before seen. I can’t assume to know what you did or didn’t understand going into this thing, and your past experience with the subject (which, I’ll assume from your comment, was positive) certainly colors your perspective. Your quotes in the Star, however, painted a pretty clear picture.
I don’t think I took things out of context, or truncated any of your statements to make my point. I excerpted a 150-word block, unedited, and linked back to the original article. The only way I misrepresented your intention was if your intention was sufficiently muddied in its translation to print. That’s how you came off to me, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in reading it that way.
I’ve spoken to Bouton about this topic, and was informed by his experience. In talking to hundreds of ballplayers and ex-ballplayers about the unwritten rules, the topic has come up countless times — not specific to you (The Bullpen Gospels came out after my book was finished), but to the more general concept of clubhouse sanctity, and what it means to have a guy like Bouton chronicling their existence. Suffice it to say that there wasn’t a lot of support.
To be clear, Ball Four is one of the great books in baseball’s literary canon, and — as I originally wrote — The Bullpen Gospels is also quite good. I’m delighted that you do what you do, and that you do it so well. (It’s why I mentioned in the first sentence that Out of My League is close to its release date.) It just struck me as tone deaf to see you express surprise that some of your teammates might not agree.