Back in October the Jays made a little noticed and lightly regarded waiver wire claim. some guy with the unlikely and yet somehow perfect-for-baseball name of Dirk Hayhurst. A quick perusal of the stats at The Baseball Cube showed us that Hayhurst was a guy who'd pitched very well in the PCL in 2008 (3.75 ERA, over 10 K9 and a 3.5:1 K:BB ratio - all quite good for any league and great, actually, for a notorious hitters league) but that really struggled in 16+ innings with the Padres. He was also quite good at AA in 2007.
Thing is, he was 27 and by that time players have often lost the "prospect" tag. Still, Hayhurst had been a starter before and had switched to the bullpen for the 2007 season so maybe he'd found his nitch. As if the Jays needed yet another RH relief candidate. Still, after the wonder that is Jessie Carlson, you think "I might hear something from this guy next year" but you try to be realistic and you move on.
However, all that has changed. Not that Dirk Hayhurst is a better pitcher now than he was in October. No, but Dirk Hayhurst is now one of my personal favorites and I guy I'm rooting for. Why? Let me show you.
Gerry, a regular contributor over at Batter's Box, linked the latest in a series of blogs Hayhurst has been writing throughout the year for Baseball America called the "Non-Prospect Diary" Being half blind, I didn't see the link but I saw subsequent references to "the Hayhurst article" so I started Googling for something on or about Dirk Hayhurst. What I found was impressive - not about Hayhurst the ball player but about Hayhurst the man (and Hayhurst the writer, by the way).
The first link I clicked was an interview posted at a Padres blog called Ducksnorts on October 15 (my birthday, btw) which included, among other things, Hayhurst's reaction to the change of organizations. It's a great read and a great insight into the mind of a man who is clearly a very classy guy. I could quote virtually all of it but there are a couple of things that most caught my eye. In this first passage, Dirk has been ask about his offseason routine and he mentions that it's important to get away from the game for a while...
Honestly, for me, there is a rekindling process in seeing life outside of baseball. I like to do volunteer work or work normal jobs part time. Last year I sold televisions at Circuit City. You may think that’s crazy, but as a baseball player, you miss so much of humanity in your baseball bubble. There aren’t many jobs where people pay to watch you work, where folks just show up to treat you like royalty. Some may boo you but they still respect you. Try selling TV’s, where people treat you like dirt and you don’t make enough to buy the products you’re selling. If that doesn’t make you appreciate your job, even when the media is billing you as a crappy relief pitcher, nothing will. It’s during those moments, when I see life go on around me completely unconcerned with trivial, minuscule issues like ERA that I feel like I can handle another year of baseball, because baseball is nothing compared to dealing with the bigger picture.
Later, he's reminiscing about his time in the minors and particularly about Lake Elsinore and he talks about a chance he had to speak to a class of school kids...
Once, in my later years there, I had an opportunity to speak to a group of grade schoolers during a community appearance. It’s cliche for baseball players to tell kids to work hard and keep chasing their dreams and all that other Disneyland stuff. I didn’t do that. This day I told the kids they should dream of being great writers, or scientists, or doctors, or peacemakers. I said they should dream dreams of changing the world, not just of being famous for some empowering feeling. I said, and I quote, “The world can go on without baseball players — we aren’t that important — but take out the folks who cure disease, write laws, and make peace, and it just may stop. Great people in those fields change the whole world; grow up to be one of them!” I remember it because I couldn’t believe it came out of me — that and a mom videotaped it.
I don't know about you but I find that very impressive. Not only is this a guy with some good thoughts, but he's good at expressing them. On the aforementioned Non-Prospect Diary, the column Gerry linked is well written and fun but my vote goes to this one. I challenge you to read that and remain unaffected.
Two things jump out at me from all this - first, I hope that baseball fortune favors Hayhurst and that somehow, in the midst of all out bullpen arms, he finds a way into a long and productive career with the Jays - both the Jays and the major leagues could use a soul of that caliber. And I wouldn't mind seeing a great deal more from his keyboard, either directly covering the sport or just writing in general - his writing ability may well exceed his athletic ability.
But beyond that --- day in and day out I see, or hear, baseball fans ranting in some public forum about their team, or their GM, or some player they "hate." Whether it's doom and gloom about the future, or intense anger that they have had to "suffer" through 15 years without a championship, or because they can't stand the perceived stupidity of pretty much everyone except themselves...and most especially the people running the team or the sport . . .
All you guys might need to take this opportunity to grab yourself a man-sized dose of perspective, m'kay? It's a GAME. Grown men getting paid to swing a stick at a ball, or catch a ball, or throw a ball - it's supposed to be FUN. Recreation. Relaxation. Most especially for those who watch. As Hayhurst said, there are a lot of important things in the world - and baseball's not one of them. And on those rare occasions when it is important, it's not the occasions when your team wins a championship, it's in the far more quiet occasions when it brings a bit of joy to a kid's life.
So have a bit of Christmas joy, dial back on the stress, and remind yourself - sixty days until pitchers and catchers report!