You could call Dirk Hayhurst's stories of baseball life cautionary. But that wouldn't honor the wonderful things baseball has brought him, things that he says gave him a new life.
But Hayhurst wants people to understand all the baseball life entails.
"It's a job," he said by telephone from (no surprise) some hotel...somewhere. "It's a job encapsulated in a dream, but it is hard work."
Hayhurst, currently a reliever in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, wrote about being a minor league player in his extraordinary book, "The Bullpen Gospels." It is a fearless love letter to the sport he loves, plays, and has suffered for. He's now writing a sequel that will focus on getting to the majors.
The minor leagues is a unique world for any person (I'm sure I'm less normal than I even was before I became a MILB writer) to navigate through. It's harder than people imagine, most importantly young boys who have designs on a MLB career.
"I almost feel bad for kids. It's not the dream people make it out to be. It's a lot crueler," said Hayhurst.
Taken in the third round in 2003 by the San Diego Padres, he made his Major League debut five years later. The book explored the dynamics of living a life that seems to be out of one's control in so many ways. You've got to be made of tough stuff to take all the ups and downs. When asked if there was a time he felt he wanted to hang up his cleats, he's emphatic.
"Absolutely. There was a point where I started to wonder if getting there [to the majors] would justify the sacrifices," he said. "When you're young, baseball is a driving force. It's a child's dream. But the dream starts to be tempered by immediate necessity and reality, as you get older."
That reality was fully explored in 'Gospels', but in the sequel to his acclaimed debut he said you'll get a look into the rookie experience at the Major League level.
"One of the things I write about is my first year up with the San Diego Padres and what was possibly the worst stretch of baseball I've played in my life," he said.
It will also be a love story about his wife Bonnie.
"Hard to imagine a baseball player writing a love story, because you always hear about the players cheating, but yeah, that's part of it," he said.
Hayhurst understands the importance of having his personal life in order in the world of baseball. His desire to be honest about his journey came naturally to him, because he knew that most people were only getting certain sides of the story. There was a need for a book like his.
"Sports books either have to be about some incredible story of overcoming obstacles or it's a steroid tell-all. They don't represent the reality. I wanted to do something genuine that showed the good and the bad," he said.
Hayhurst sees Minor League Baseball changing in two very specific ways.
"One, they've cracked down on the drug use. It's more invasive. There's more pee tests. The minors really bear the brunt of that crackdown," he said. "The other thing is how prospects are lauded. The attention they get is incredible. I'd love to know what the attendance was for Strasburg's minor league debut."
For the record Strasburg's home debut for the Harrisburg Senators set the attendance record at 7,895.
There are plenty of misconceptions about the bus leagues. I once argued with a fan when he said he liked going to minor league games because it wasn't about the money. It is about the money. None of those players want to spend their life in the minors. That doesn't mean they're doing it only for the money. But the dream is to go all the way, not to Class-A.
"It's kind of a joke we have, we say, 'Living the dream,' Hayhurst said. "You wouldn't think it was all a dream if you saw what we did. It's about facing that you may never make it to the majors. The travel is hard. The grind mentally is probably the hardest part and what no one likes to talk about. It's a world with it's own rules."
Hayhurst's honesty have given him another lot in life as a writer. But no matter what he's gone through, his love and respect for the game shines through. What's the quote? You spend your whole life gripping a baseball, then realize it's been the other way around. As he tries to get back from a complicated injury (my shorthand isn't great, so I'm not sure I could explain what he told me), he says he's improving and throwing off the mound. And he's trying to finish the second part of his story.
"Baseball is not a savior," he said. "It's employment. It's not glamorous. It's made my life better economically. But it hasn't changed me as a person."