More Q-and-A with Dirk Hayhurst

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The Associated Press
During a game in Sept., 2008, Padres pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, right, is late with a tag on the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval, who scores on a wild pitch in the top of the 10th inning.

Following up on today’s Q-and-A with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, author of the hot-selling “The Bullpen Gospels” about his 2007 season spend in the minor leagues (linked here), there’s more to tell:

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Q: Are you going to pitch again?

A: This may be the end, but it’s tough to see. The life of your average right-handed reliever isn’t guaranteed. I hope to pitch again, but at some point, like everything else, I’ll have to take it as it comes.

Q: You’ve talked about how you found it kind of silly at times to sign baseballs for people. Does it feel any different now to sign a copy of your book?

A: I’ve actually been excited to do it; it’s not strange for some reason. When someone wants you to sign a baseball card, it’s because they collect it, or they want something from me, the player, but they really don’t know anything about me except for stats. There’s no personal connection. But when people get the book and read the stories, now they know me, who I am, there’s a cool personal touch to it. It transcends the baseball card.

Q: How has the book changed the way your teammates treat you?

A: It used to be that I was intimidated by the other players, and now I think I intimidate them because I did a book, and it’s been read by tens of thousands of people. At first, it was hard to do because they started to be weary of me, like I was Jim Bouton, but now it’s been different. They’re not scared of me but they know what I can do with a laptop.

Q: So you’ve helped teach them the power of baseball in a way?

A: If a non-prospect like me can be successful as a writer, maybe some of the others feel something similar. There’ll always be books out there, but I’m competitive. I want mine to be the best. Not the first, but one of the best, for unique reasons. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here. At least I can say my book didn’t get me fired.
As you know, It’s more than a baseball book, I know. There’s always books about overcoming adversity and things like that. Whoop de do, that’s been done to death. I think what this is more about ourselves, what people are sometimes afraid to address.

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Q: Going back to Jim Bouton, you’ve had correspondence with him along the way. What’s that been like?

A: I think every baseball player who writes a book goes to Bouton with their hat in their hand and asks, ‘Please, sir, may I have a blurb?’ I’m sure Bouton gives them the, ‘hey, kid, I’ve got things to do.’ That’s how it went for me. I got him a page or two so he could get the dialogue. Beyond that, I wanted to tell him: I’m not trying to do a sequel to your book, and he respected that. He came back and said that one thing he’d learned is that the literary people like to clean up the language, but you’re a baseball player, let that stand out. If it’s too clean and wonderful, then it’s not real. Some people criticized me for being too vulgar, but I gotta tell you, if you’re in the bullpen, you’re not curing cancer or fixing the Hubble space telescope. We’re handing signed balls to teachers asking for dates.

Q: From a bookselling perspective, do you stand to make decent money from the book at some point after certain number of sales?

A: I did get a pretty respectable advance — $10,000, but I think it was because I was a big leaguer. Still, it’s not like taking a bonus. I had to earn it back before I make any royalties. I just had this fear that because I’m injured, it’ll flop because I’m not there to be seen. But I told them I’d hustle and get it to everyone. Keith Olbermann (at MSNBC) has been a huge supporter. The book has held its own. But then, it’s never been about the money.

Q: I get to read so many books by baseball players who really have nothing to say. Did you read those kind of books as well when deciding how you’d do yours?

i-bcf0065316f73d4ac300a023aff0c360-skoal_cherry_longcut.jpgA: Baseball America had a bunch of guys who were writing “The Prospect Diaries” about their days in the minors. Again, they were the big-name guys who’d get a lot of media. They sell. I’d read them, and think, ‘Thank God they’re big-league guys, but it’s garbage.’ So you ‘went out, hit the ball hard, drank a protein shake and you miss your dog. ‘Man, that’s revolutionary stuff. What about the time you slept on the floor of the team bus and someone knocked over the spit bucket and the whole place smelled like cherry Skoal? Or a guy shits himself and the whole bus was like a barnyard?’
Everyone understands it must be cool to be a big-leaguer. But when we’re giving millions of dollars to a guy who doesn’t speak English — and if you put him in the classroom he’d fail eighth grade — but he throws 100 mile-per-hour pitches … and then he’s telling kids that getting a good education matters because it’ll get them anywhere they want to go in the world, even if their heroes are doing it this way . . .
Athletes can be super heroes, for God’s sake, thrown onto a pedistal. It’s completely unrealistic. We know, now that we’re adults, that there’s no such thing as a super-human, but we can’t change how our culture looks at it. Our kids look at athletes like demi-gods. No one deserves that.

Q: Have there been any comparisons made with your book to the one that Matt McCarthy did a few years ago, “Odd Man Out,” about his season in the Angels’ minor-league system (which was later called out for some fabrication)?

A: I haven’t read it and I no real desire to. He played just one short season anyway. I want people to know what’s in my book really happened. Some of the characters are combined, so there is some artistic liberty taken. But that was also me protecting my career. I’m not naming names or making accusations.

Q: On page 72, you talk about Cooper Brannan in Padres camp, a former solider injured in battle who lost a finger on his left hand, coming back as a pitcher. It was really a Padres’ feel-good story. You were mad about the attention the story received, about how the industry lavished so much attention on him, hoping to look good by association and those who stood to profit from him. Is there any correlation about the attention your book has generated as the media tries to latch onto it now?

A: I’m only using the media to a point. I want to the book to be successful. That’s a no-brainer. So I use a publicist. My desire is for the media to help get my message out there. When I wrote about Cooper, it was a wonderful story, but seemed almost saccharine sweet to a point where so many wanted their finger on it. I could think of all other people who went to war and were injured, but they weren’t on the playing field. Who was writing about them?
And maybe sounds jaded, or even a little sadistic, but when you think about how horrible Sept. 11 was, it’s almost like a mosquito bite compare to some of the atrocities that happen in other parts of the world. It’s terrible on any level, but what makes you think a certain story sells more than any other story. Why is that? As an observer, we’re fighting to be talked about, and if we get attention that means we must be valuable. If you get in the media, it means someone must care about you. The more we think that way, we consider the media such an important part of our existence.

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Q: How do you view the social media that’s involved with today’s media? You’ve seemed to embrace the social media part of things where others may not know too much about it.

A: I know that a lot of athletes are now using Twitter and some say that it’s a prominent example of how social media is really for idiots, because guys will tweet about how they went to the club and got crunked and had all the hos . . . and then we read it and say, ‘Can you believe this guy? What an idiot!’ We love to degrade others to make ourselves feel better.
I tried to use social media as a way to network with the fans and interact. Whether you accept it or not, we’re in the public entertainment-driven industry, so fans need access instead of using the media as a third man in this. You can let them get behind you as a person as opposed to the perceived person. So I do enjoy it for that. But there is a double-edged sword about that. You have to be cautious. There is much more scrutiny, telling people what you feel. You’re less likely to have your words twisted around, but when someone like a Keith Olbermann or Bob Costas tweet about how great the book is, it’s a natural networking device. The electronic media never dies. It’s on someone’s server until it crashes or the end of time, and it’s linked and spread around. That’s the way the culture is going. Some athletes resist it and deny it’s happening because they’re scared of it. But either embrace it you let it drag you kicking and screaming into the future.

Q: One last thing: As for that story about the Lake Elsinore player who put his phone number on the ball and gave it to the school teacher … did he get a date with her?

A: Yeah, he got the date. And we asked him about it. I think it was cut out of the book .. . we asked him, “How’d the date go?” “I don’t want to talk about it.” “C’mon, what did she do, shut you down?” “I don’t want to talk about it.” So Slappy was right: Chicks lie.

More on Hayhurst:

== His website (linked here)

== His Twitter account (linked here)

== His stats on TheBaseballCube.com (linked here)

== A Q-and-A with ESPN’s Rob Neyer (linked here)

== A Q-and-A with mlb.com (linked here)

== A Q-and-A with hardballtimes.com (linked here)

== An interview with TheVoiceofSport.com (linked here)

== A recent chat on BaseballAmerica.com (linked here)

== More shout-outs by Keith Olbermann (linked here)

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