Hayhurst writes his own happy ending
In Minors, pitcher started writing career as a backup
SAN DIEGO -- The window on his dream of reaching the Major Leagues was closing fast, so two years ago, Dirk Hayhurst decided to prop it back open with, of all things, his words.
Of course, it wasn't anything Hayhurst specifically said that afforded an opportunity of a lifetime to pitch in the Major Leagues with the Padres. His right arm, tested by six years in the Minor Leagues, had something to do with that.
But Hayhurst's decision to write down his experiences in the Minor Leagues, first for his own amusement and later for actual publication, might have given the 27-year-old rookie a new lease on a professional career that was going seemingly nowhere.
"I was looking at my life two years ago, after four years of pro ball, and I realized that I wasn't on the fast track anymore," Hayhurst said this week, standing in the clubhouse at PETCO Park. "I came to terms that my chances were slim."
This revelation of sorts wasn't necessarily something Hayhurst wanted to embrace, even if he knew better.
"Even if you're a dream chaser, life goes on," he said. "And it's going to drag you along like a screaming brat if it has to. I knew the window was starting to close."
So Hayhurst, who said that in high school and in college at Kent State he never had much interest in writing -- "I was a speech and debate kid because I liked to talk" -- opted to put pen to paper and detail his experiences and adventures in the Minor Leagues.
"I always had these great stories to tell, so I decided to write them down," Hayhurst said. "I've always wanted to do something with baseball. Maybe if I couldn't play in the Major Leagues, I could write about it, what it was like to be in my situation ... sleeping on an air mattress in grandma's spare sewing room, things like that."
At first, Hayhurst's musings were his own and not for public consumption. But after reading Baseball America's regular segment called "Prospect Diaries," Hayhurst opted to contact the publication and see if they had interest in what would eventually become his "Non-Prospect Diary."
The idea, really, wasn't just about being published, but detailing what Hayhurst felt what life in the Minor Leagues was really like.
"I would read the prospect diary, but it was so cliché, like, 'I drink a protein drink, I love baseball, I always wanted to be a big leaguer.' Like there's not a million kids who don't want to be big leaguers. 'I hit a double today, I miss my girlfriend, I can't wait to get home.' Well, big whoop.
"There's all this other stuff that happens in the game, the sweat and toil, the hopes, the bus trips, and the stuff no one talks about. Not everyone can relate what it's like to be a superstar. I decided it would be sort of a spoof on baseball, things like what it's like to work at Circuit City, take a pee test or say goodbye to a friend who had been released."
Hayhurst's work proved to be a big hit, as his local newspaper, the Canton Repository, published his work as well -- the "Bullpen Gospels."
Soon enough, Hayhurst had a following. He wrote about just about anything, whether it be about a teammate with flatulence on the team bus, dodging spiders in hotel rooms or getting lit up in front of his family during a start.
"I wrote about what it's like to volunteer at a homeless shelter, or be touched by a kid who has cancer. I honestly didn't expect it would get any attention," Hayhurst said. "I just wanted people to know that I'm just a person. I'm not more important than anyone else. The uniform might make you think I am, but I'm not.
"I took time out of the day to sign a ball for a kid who has cancer. That's the least I can do."
Hayhurst said this week that he won't be chronicling his time in the Major Leagues, as he wants to focus on doing his job and nothing else.
Hayhurst made his Major League debut on Saturday against San Francisco. He allowed three runs in four innings. He'll get his second start on Friday, and there appears to be a chance he'll remain in the rotation, now that Josh Banks has been optioned to Portland.
"Right now, the cap is on the pen. I don't want to do anything to screw this blessing up," he said.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.