It was a nice story last season when The Garfoose signed with the Rays and did well in Durham before getting injured. Even though his career is now taking him over to Italy this season, he still remains one of the more intriguing guys to follow on Twitter as he is quite a diverse personality and an engaging person.
When I was presented with an opportunity to receive a review copy of his latest book in December, I jumped on it even though the timing could not have been worse. At the time, I was elbow-deep into writing the Rays' chapter for the 2012 Baseball Prospectus while carrying my typical writing workload for the many sites in which I produce content for after hours from my day job which taxes me with both heavy workloads and heavy travel schedules. In short, this book quickly grabbed my attention span and kept me interested until its very end.
I may not be an experienced critical book reviewer, but I am a challenging one for authors. For one, I am a distracted reader due to the many factors in my daily life that pull me in many directions so a book has to both draw me in and keep me interested to stick with it. I currently have four books on my nightstand with bookmarks in each one as they each have laid there unfinished long enough to collect a thin layer of dust that needs attention before my mother arrives later today for a visit with the grandchildren.
Out Of My League never made it in that stack as I finished it within the same week I received it. The one thought I had throughout reading this book is that it would make a terrific baseball movie along the lines of how Moneyball came together. Movies like Bull Durham and Long Gone were entertaining baseball movies, but Out Of My League is an entertaining baseball story. It it a dramatic tragicomedy that contains personal peaks and valleys as well as moments that make you laugh your ass off and moments that make you shake your head in dismay. Hayhurst's style makes it easy to develop an image of the characters in his personal and professional life, even as they sometimes merge together at different times throughout the story. Some of the names and faces in the story were familiar, but by the end, I felt as comfortable envisioning Randy Ready as I did Hayhurst's parents.
It was a 405 page read that never felt that long as I was reading it over three different plane rides in December. While I cherish my two degrees from the University of Central Florida, my years reading educational and technology theory turned me into someone who is constantly reading to learn rather than for any kind of enjoyment. The lesson I learned from Out Of My League was that the human factor in baseball is very real and is a lot more prevalent than some of us like to believe. It changed my outlook on players and I can no longer pretend that players can turn their personal emotions on and off as they enter the threshold of the stadium and they are 100 percent focused and ready for the task at hand day in and day out.
As an analyst, I have tended to focus on the numbers and have ignored the silliness of human interest when evaluating players. Unless there was a sick or even gravely ill child in the picture, I had no interest in hearing about divorces, child custody cases, or late night partying as long as the player's on-field production was not effected. I had always believed a player should check their emotions at the clubhouse door and go out and do the job they are paid (poorly, most times) to do. It is what I am asked to do at my job on a daily basis and have in fact lost a job in the past when I let the emotions surrounding my divorce come into my workplace. Yet, it is rather presumptuous to compare my job to that of a baseball player because I am unlikely to lose my job after a bad day or even bad week of work while a player's future could change before they know it is coming and that fear and self-loathing is something that Hayhurst wraps all throughout this story.
Hayhurst does a wonderful job of describing the physical and emotional struggles players go through in the minors as they play for their career on a nightly basis. While parts of his personal story are likely more extreme than others, these stories are real. While he is worrying about his dysfunctional family at home and trying to plan a wedding with his fiancee in Ohio while pitching in Portland, a teammate is having nightly screaming matches with an ex over a child and is then being asked to go out on the mound and shut down opposing hitters. The human element is a real thing and something that should be included in player analysis and not dismissed just because it is tough to qualify and this book (and his previous effort) most certainly gave me a new appreciation for an area of player analysis I previously ignored.
While it has not been announced yet, hopefully there will be an audio format of this book. My travel schedule became even worse in January so I downloaded The Bullpen Gospels app and experienced that book in that manner while driving around the mid-Atlantic states. If you have not yet read The Bullpen Gospels, the audiobook app is extremely well done and worth the download
Out Of My League is a book to read if you have ever been interested in what a pitcher is thinking about or experiencing as they are trying to work their way to the major leagues. All of us have likely envisioned what a career to the major leagues would be like, but this book gives you the authentic experience of a non-prospect as he tries to achieve his goal of reaching the major leagues. It is a comedy, a drama, and a tragedy all in one that seamlessly moves from one theme to the next while leaving the impact of the previous chapter at the forefront of your mind. This is not just a great baseball story, it is an insightful life story and one I strongly recommend you pick up to read and one I hope some movie studio picks up to bring it to life.