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Autograph University Interview – Dirk Hayhurst

Minor league pitcher turned major league author Dirk Hayhurst takes readers inside the clubhouse and inside the mind of a professional athlete. His New York Times bestselling memoir, Bullpen Gospels, tells the story of a ballplayer pursuing his dream of playing big league ball while his own demons give chase. Through it all Hayhurst keeps his sense of humor and, more importantly, maintains a perspective on what is truly meaningful in his life. His recently released follow-up, Out of My League, continues his journey and earned him a second call-up to the bestseller list.

Autographed copy of Out of My League

Win my autographed copy of Dirk Hayhurst's "Out of My League". Details at the end of this post.

In this interview with Autograph University, Hayhurst shares his thoughts on signing autographs, our celebrity-obsessed culture, and the distinction of getting a Garfoose.

Autograph University: Tell me about the first time someone asked you for your autograph and how it made you feel.

Dirk Hayhurst: First time I can remember since turning pro was the first time I walked out onto the field as a Eugene (Oregon) Emerald. That was Short Season A Ball with the San Diego Padres organization. I believe I was 22 at the time. When the kids ran down to me, I thought they all knew exactly who I was, my whole back story, that I was going to be a future big leaguer. It was a very surreal feeling. Like the way I stretched my name across ticket stubs and programs was more than just ink, but some form of baptism. I was pretty impressed by it.

AU: Which athletes did you look up to as a kid and whom have you asked for an autograph?

DH: I’ve idolized many of the great pitchers. Never cared too much for hitters. I asked Hoffman for his autograph. Maddux and Peavy, as well as several others… I don’t care too much for the balls. It’s the memory it represents. It’s a little shrine to a time we shared together occupying the same space. We were teammates once—more than simply numbers on a roster, but human beings that had a relationship to one another. That’s what those things mean to me when I see them. I don’t find joy in collecting dead items, but to me, those things are still very much alive.

AU: What memorabilia have you collected over your career and what are your plans for it?

DH: I have some signed baseballs, a few jerseys. No cards, no bats. I give some of it away to charity auctions or close friends—all but what has something meaningful to me. I don’t like to spend time accumulating stuff that doesn’t mean much to me just so I can tell other people I have it. I got to play the game for a living, which has sated most of my desires for memorabilia since the experience of playing is something most people will never get to collect. I think that’s really why I hold onto anything—it has somehow helped me collect an experience I don’t want to lose.

AU: Many athletes have a set of autograph signing rules—whether self-imposed or part of contract terms—about where, when and what they sign and whom they sign for. What are your autograph signing rules?

DH: I don’t really have any rules. I’m not famous enough to have to worry about coming up with such things. It’s still a treat for me when people want me to sign something for them. I suppose if I was at dinner or with family or in a situation where it would be terribly rude to drop what I was doing and tend to autograph requests, I might say “Sorry, I can’t right now.” Fortunately, I don’t see that happening. I sign until I don’t have any more time to.

AU: One of your autograph variations includes a sketch of the Garfoose. How did that invention because part of your autograph and how do you decide when to include it?

DH: In baseball, you can either become famous for doing the same things other people do, only better, or by doing things no one else does. It’s amazing how many people choose the former over the latter. There is some back story to The Garfoose, but, suffice to say, I decided to draw it on fan swag because it made both the fan and myself happy to do it. It made me special. Over the years, you realize that most fans, and most autograph hunters, don’t see you, the players, as terribly unique outside of where you fit in their collections. In some ways, it’s dehumanizing to be a check off in a collection. In other ways, it’s a great opportunity to do something that will make you stand out in said collection. No use getting into an existential crisis about it all, there will always be autograph hunters so you might as well give them something fun to hunt. I made up the Garfoose for that very reason. Anyone can get a signature, but not just anyone can get a Garfoose.

AU: The commercialization of autographs has dramatically affected the signing habits of athletes. How does it make you feel to know some of your autographs are being resold and how has that affected your own habits?

DH: I could care less. In fact, it’s flattering to know your stupid little scribble is worth money, when you think about it. I can’t control what the populace thinks is valuable. If they think my Garfoose or name or number is more valuable than the ink and parchment it’s printed on, so be it. As a long as it’s making someone happy to possess it, that’s all that matters. I still sign for just about anyone at any time. What they do after that is their business.

AU: In our celebrity-obsessed society there are certain professions we put on a pedestal such as actors and professional athletes. Collectors don’t spend hours camped outside hospitals to ask the nation’s top oncologists—or a person like your wife who helps children with special needs—for their autograph. What are your thoughts on the idolization of ballplayers?

DH: We can do better. Players, by and large, aren’t that educated, insightful, or worthy of our attention. I think the money that the industry generates is a great bellwether of our society as a whole: we like to be entertained. That’s fine, but entertainers make poor role models. Partially because they aren’t well balanced people, and partially because we expect them to be super human in character and physical expression. We have a expectation for our famous elites to be above us in accountability, integrity, and value because they possess what we value most: celebrity. The desire to worship, follow, and even collect sports figures is a by-product of the contagion of celebrity obsession our culture is terminally ill with.

AU: In Bullpen Gospels you wrote about feeling a lack of fulfillment as a baseball player and that you never wanted to be identified only by your profession. How has the reception to your first book and early returns on Out Of My League changed your feelings about the work you do and impact on people, both as a writer and ballplayer?

DH: I can tell you honestly that no one has ever come up to me after a game in which I pitched and said that the way I threw that little white ball changed their lives. I have, however, had many people come to me and tell me that something I’ve written did. That’s a powerful feeling, and that’s why I value writing over baseball. Despite the dominance of sports media, the instruments of social change have rarely been sports—they have been artists capturing the human condition, activists, scientist, teachers and the like.

A huge thanks to Dirk for participating in this interview. Visit him on the web at dirkhayhurst.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheGarfoose.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway. I really enjoyed reading your comments. The winner was randomly selected from all eligible entries and the lucky reader is Jason Christopherson! Jason, look out for an email from me.

I purchased an autographed copy of Out of My League (featuring the Garfoose!) and I’m giving it away to a lucky Autograph University reader! Leave a comment and tell me which athlete’s memoir you would like to see published and why. The giveaway closes on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 7 p.m. ET.

I will randomly choose a winner (each comment will be assigned a number and I will use an online generator) and post the result on this page. One comment per person and please use a valid email address so I can contact you if you win.

Have fun and good luck!

Connect with me on Twitter: @mattraymond

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

29 comments… add one

  • Justin March 27, 2012, 9:25 am

    I enjoy not just Dirk’s published writings, but his Tweets and other online posts, as well. As far as what athlete’s memoir I’d like to see published, it would have to be Peyton Manning. I mean, to go from being Todd Helton’s backup at Tennessee to the Colts’ “savior” to winning a Super Bowl and being a sure-fire HOFer, I think he’d have a great story to tell. Plus, with his dad and brother both being famous, I’m sure he’d have some good stories to tell.

  • Bryan March 27, 2012, 9:35 am

    There are so many athletes’ memoirs that I’d like to see published, but I’d have to go with Josh Hamilton. From the pressures of being the No. 1 pick at 18, to drug and alcohol addiction, to American League MVP and then a minor relapse, I feel his story is quite fascinating.

  • Derek March 27, 2012, 10:43 am

    I would like to see tiger woods write a memoir because it would be very interesting to hear what it was like for him to be the best all his life and why he did what he did and how it was like for him going through his scandal.

  • jason may March 27, 2012, 10:44 am

    i would love to here billy cannon or ya tittle story. they are great autograph signers and great human beings

  • Nick Filipone March 27, 2012, 11:48 am

    For me, I would enjoy reading what Moose Skowron has to say about his career. The stories he must have from his days playing with Mantle have to be fascinating. I had the pleasure of chatting with Moose for a good 5 minutes last year at Mohegan Sun. It was just Moose, a friend of mine, and myself. He was very friendly, entertaining, and I can only imagine what would come out in a book. That said. I do despise the Yankees.

  • James B. March 27, 2012, 11:53 am

    I love Dirk. A very thoughtful and hilarious guy. Great interview! Excellent website also, by the way. As for who I would like to see publish their memoirs, I can only think of one athlete who I wouldn’t miss.. “The Big Hurt” Frank Thomas! He’s a personal hero of mine and I’d LOVE to read a total unedited version of his life story. Thanks and once again.. great site!

  • Daniel March 27, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Dirk is awesome I never got a chance to get his autograph down at the Rogers Center when he was up here. I find it interesting how he has stated some of his former teammates were less than pleased about his books. Gregg Zaun is a played I’d like to make a memoir due to the Hillenbrand incident.

  • Scott March 27, 2012, 12:34 pm

    I’d love to see Jim Eisenreich put out his memoirs. The guy battled Tourette’s Syndrome and became a major leaguer (for 15 years) against long odds.

    Thanks for the interview with Dirk. He’s a great guy and The Bullpen Gospels was a fantastic read.

  • Amy March 27, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Pat Neshek…..just for the fact that he is a great signer..it would be interesting to hear his story.

  • Greg March 27, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Great interview. I just started OOML last night, somewhat ironically. I’d love to read a book by someone like Bill Buckner, whose life was changed by just one play.

  • Mike Sorenson March 27, 2012, 1:25 pm

    I would love to hear the story about Dale Murphy. He was not only a great ball player but he did so much for his community. After looking at current players who are all about “me,” it is nice to see a man who was all about the team. He played for the Braves when they were pretty bad. He had decent stats but hasn’t been invited into the Hall of Fame.

  • Steve F. March 27, 2012, 2:12 pm

    Great interview! I would live to read a tell-all memoir of Mark Grace. It would be fascinating to read about his successful playing career as the best hitter in the 1990’s to his tales about his “slumpbusters,” his view on his failed marriages (one who is on the reality show “Baseball Wives”), to his feeling of betrayal from the Cubs which lead to winning a World Series with the DiamondBacks. Also, I would love to read about his post-playing days including his reconciliation with the Cubs and his success as a quirky broadcaster. This would be without a doubt a great read!

  • Dan Fritz March 27, 2012, 2:16 pm

    I love that he doesn’t care what happens to items after he signs them. Finally, an athlete that gets it. Nice interview.

  • Jason Seidman March 27, 2012, 5:53 pm

    Im in. I’d love to see what goes on in the mind of Manny Ramirez…

  • Cody March 27, 2012, 5:57 pm

    One thing that is always frustrating as a collector, is that pitchers and catchers are not allowed to sign on days they are starting. I understand, but I’d be interested to hear the perspective of a generally perceived nice guy who is forced to turn down fans on a daily basis. Maybe someone like Joe Mauer. I’d want to know if he feels bad about it, accepts it as part of the rules, or doesn’t really care for signing in the first place.

  • Mike Knox March 27, 2012, 7:42 pm

    I would like to read about any of the NFL players from the 40-50’s. Most of those guys made little money, has a side job during the off season and also were in the military.

  • Jason Christopherson March 27, 2012, 9:57 pm

    I would like to see a book that featured some of the replacement NFL players from the 87 strike season. In addition to the individual struggles and triumphs, it would be interesting to see if different teams and different cities treated the replacements in different ways.

    Thank you for the interview and the thought-provoking contest.

  • A.J. March 27, 2012, 10:18 pm

    Thanks for the great interview! I’d love to have the chance to see a memoir of NBA player Kevin Durant. He is my favorite NBA player, but really has a remarkable story and is a great signer in person for the most part.

    Thanks again!

  • Barry March 28, 2012, 1:11 am

    Jamie Moyer. How many active players have a 1987 rookie card – one! A quarter century of major league baseball would yield some great stories, and I’m sure a lot of interesting views on how the game and the world around it have changed over that time. And Jamie remains a great autograph signer, including TTM, today.

  • Tiffany March 28, 2012, 2:08 am

    Craig Biggio. His life probably isn’t too interesting, but he’s always been my favorite player and an Astros’ legend.

  • dj March 28, 2012, 6:32 am

    Awesome interview and thank for sharing it. As for the athlete i would like to read a memoir of, mine would be josh Hamilton. He has a great story and i would love to hear the whole thing.

  • Ron Martin March 28, 2012, 6:43 am

    I would love to read the memoirs of Nick Esasky. He was a very promised first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds during the mid-1980’s but mysteriously contracted vertigo which basically derailed his career. I would love to read about his comments about something like this causing such a devastating effect on his baseball career.

  • nick March 28, 2012, 8:54 am

    Jim Deshaies. His on air personality leads me to think his book would be hilarious.

  • Chad March 28, 2012, 1:01 pm

    Would love to see someone like Jamie Moyer have his memoir published. Imagine a guy as old as he is still fighting through injuries to make it back to the big leagues. He never had top notch stuff, yet he still found a way to come fairly close to winning 300 games. I don’t suspect his life outside baseball would be too terribly exciting, but it would be nice to see someone like him rewarded for his longevity in some fashion.

  • Dan Fritz March 28, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Would like to see one on Robin Yount or Paul Molitor, my favorites as a kid.

  • Jesse Donahue March 28, 2012, 10:03 pm

    If I had to pick one persons life to be displayed or learn more about I think it would have to be Willie McCovey’s. He has been my favorite player for some time now and I would just love to see his career and life in full. Playing with Willie and being the most feared duo in baseball (in my opinion) at the time would be something I would enjoy learning more about.

  • Ben Mitchell March 29, 2012, 6:35 pm

    Travis Lee because he was my favorite player as a kid and was the face for a brand new Diamondbacks organization.

  • J. Loesl March 30, 2012, 4:34 pm

    Ryan Braun. I want to know what really happened.

  • Mike Gilligan March 30, 2012, 6:41 pm

    Very nice interview. Both he and his wife seem to have their head on right

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