Monday, April 12, 2010

The Garfoose

I am well aware of the irony of writing about someone who I only know through Twitter on the first day of my Twitter fast. However, since today was the day I had hoped to meet him, the story needs to be told now.

See, I had planned by this time to have read pitcher Dirk Hayhurst's book The Bullpen Gospels and spend this afternoon at the Chapters near the stadium at his book signing. I was then going to go to the Jays home opener. However, my non-income situation (hopefully changing very soon) means I haven't yet read the book and I'm not going to the game. I thought about going to the signing anyway and just observing, something I like doing with people who fascinate me but I wouldn't be home in time to catch the start of the game, and that's something that's important to me too.

So instead of being there, I want to talk about why I'm fascinated and why you should follow him on Twitter and get his book. You don't need to be a baseball fan to enjoy his writing because on top of everything else he's also studying media during the off-season.

The way he's using Twitter is incredible (@TheGarfoose). At times he's used it to raise money for causes important to him (KIVA and Haitan relief) and to raise awareness about autism, an area his wife does work in. Currently a lot of his tweets is around his new book - retweeting comments by people who like it (and sometimes don't), linking to reviews, and publicizing his signings. Other times he runs contests, usually when he hits follower milestones. Occasionally he'll share what he's doing, what he's watching, asking for help with an essay, stuff that all of us do every once and a while. He's actually pretty geeky, with a love of superheroes and a penchant to make silly videos. And then there's my favourite times when he lets his imagination run wild and he tells stories about the real origins of his teammates or the adventures of the Garfoose and Ray Halladay, the evil left handed brother (born in a Russian science lab) to my fave pitcher Roy Halladay.

This article gives you a pretty rounded sense of the man. And he totally endeared himself to me when he wrote this incredibly beautiful ode to Roy Halladay. Doesn't name him, doesn't need to. Doing it that way just adds to the poignancy of the piece.

I've described Roy in the past as a poet with the baseball. How does Dirk see pitching as art? He was asked recently and said this:
GY: Pitching is a craft. Writing is a craft. Obviously they are not the same, but I imagine there are some similarities in terms of preparation, process, etc. What skills from one arena have you been able to apply to the other?

DH: Oddly, the two don't seem to share anything for me, and I like it that way. I like writing because it is a complete escape from pitching. I control all the letters and words and can assemble them any way I like. With pitching, however, I have to let go of the ball, at which point I no longer have any say in the matter—good or bad. I know there are many arguments for both being an art form, and I suppose that's true in some cases. Yet, I don't know many painters who are called in to get the starting painter out of a jam with runners on base.

One thing writing has taught me about pitching is how small pitching is. I've said things along the lines of this, but it's true. Writing about baseball is a great way to put thoughts and feelings which seem so large and overwhelming into the confines of small, unremarkable print. Seeing events, whether big or small, in words lets me look at them more objectively. Writing has the power to diffuse and explode things, a power I use frequently.
What amazes me the most about him is his openness and honesty, his willingness to share his down times with all these strangers. I find that so difficult to do, even among friends (heck, I'm having a hard time just writing this post - I've been working on it on and off ALL day) and here is this guy sharing his trials and tribulations alongside his joie de vive and active imagination. He's someone who isn't an either/or. Baseball AND writing. Responsible adult AND big kid. I know that reading the book will tell me how he got to this point but right now I'm just so impressed that he IS there. I wasn't when I was his age. It probably has something to do with the pressure cooker that is professional baseball.

A few months ago he found out he would have to undergo shoulder surgery. For someone who had finally managed to achieve his dream, this was cruel fate indeed. And he shared his fears with us. The support he got from the "Garfooslings" demonstrates how powerful social media can be.

In the end, he realizes he can make a difference in people's lives, mostly by being himself. In his words:
That's what I wrote about: the balance of things, the value of our dreams, the time we have to chase them, and their hard price in reality. Of fantasy and a sometimes blindly ignored set of facts. And of what it's like to come through it all with more than just soppy clothes and a beaming smile, but perspective culled from our terminal competition with time. I discovered we are all more valuable then what we accomplish in our profession—Big or minor league—and I shared it as best I could.

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