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.