Big League Stew - MLB

Injuries bum me out, and the news about Dirk Hayhurst(notes) having shoulder surgery on Friday is a real downer.

Hayhurst himself seems to be handling it OK; he jokingly expects doctors to cut off his right arm — which then would be used as a prize — and replace it with a bionic one, like that of Inspector Gadget.

That's just how Hayhurst seems to roll.

If you're not a Toronto Blue Jays fan, or if you don't follow him on Twitter, you might not be familiar with Hayhurst, who has compiled 25 major-league appearances, mostly in relief, so far.

He was a contender this spring for a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen. After toiling in the minors for seven years, he was on the verge of making an opening-day major-league roster.

Now, the future of his playing career can be summed up in two words: "Who knows?"

It's a scary time for Hayhurst, who turns 29 in March. He wasn't a bonus baby first-round draft pick, he just got married and he has a new mortgage. He's got the best health insurance possible, yes. Other than that, he's a regular guy with similar worries to yours and mine.

And yet, he's responding to troubling personal news with glib humor.

From @TheGarfoose on Twitter:

"Bad news first. It looks like they are going to have to amputate my entire right arm off and start fresh. Just throw the whole thing out.

"The good news is, Dr. Claw is retiring from chasing Inspector Gadget to do the surgery. The(y) are replacing my right arm with a super arm. Adamantium-infused, bionic, indestructible pitching arm developed by the genius of Tony Stark and Optimus Prime. Forged under Garfoose flame."

Despite his looming surgery, Hayhurst has reason to feel some comfort about his future. He might be able to write his way through the rest of his life.

Hayhurst's ability to tell stories makes him a hit on Twitter, also as a blogger/athlete and, for the first time later this spring, as the author of a memoir about his experiences in the minor leagues.

"The Bullpen Gospels" drops on March 30, but it's already getting rave reviews.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, a sports guy before he turned political pundit, calls it "one of the best baseball books ever written" — possibly the best baseball autobiography since Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" was published in 1970.


Bob Costas, Tom Verducci and Rob Neyer also have positive takes. I haven't read it yet but if it's anything like Hayhurst's previous work, I expect to like it a lot.

The Garfoose, by the way, is Hayhurst's alter-ego. It's a half-giraffe/half-moose creature (right) dreamed up in Hayhurst's singular mind. He describes it on his Web site as "fire-breathing, magically empowered, indestructible and Wi-Fi-enabled ... the protector of the sacred Baseball Grove, where the world's most perfect baseballs are found."

Not only will I read this book, I'd watch the TV show.

Hayhurst on Twitter is a trip. He engages folks by cracking self-effacing jokes, giving insight into a ballplayer's life and producing his own short videos that star Iron Man and the Transformers. He also does trivia giveaways. Prizes include baseballs signed by Roy Halladay(notes), a more famous ex-teammate, and by Ray Halladay, who Hayhurst made up.

Hayhurst can be downright goofy. Some of his communiques border on random. But there's nothing wrong with that because it's all real, all Garfoose. This ain't no PR rep tweeting on an athlete's behalf. Part of why Hayhurst is on Twitter is to sell books, probably. But I get the feeling that's not the only reason, or even the primary reason, why he engages with the public. It's just his way.

He also has encouraged his followers — some 1,200 strong — to donate to earthquake relief in Haiti. Hayhurst's page at Mercycorps has raised nearly $1,500 and counting. Hayhurst even staged a mini-telethon, following through on a promise to personally call anyone who donated at least $50.

Hayhurst knows how fleeting the moment in the spotlight can be. When responding to a critic who wondered if his "15 minutes" were up because he was injured, Hayhurst replied that it's not the length of time but what you do while you have it that matters.

Besides, his critics are wrong. Fifteen minutes of fame will get him 19, 20 minutes in Canada, considering the exchange rate.

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