Former Stark County resident Dirk Hayhurst spent Saturday afternoon signing copies of his new book, “Bigger Than The Game,” at the Books-A-Million store on The Strip.

Former Stark County resident Dirk Hayhurst spent Saturday afternoon signing copies of his new book, “Bigger Than The Game,” at the Books-A-Million store on The Strip.

Hayhurst, who pitched at Canton South and Kent State University before being drafted to the majors, pitched for the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays before retiring. He then took a position as an analyst and color broadcaster for the Blue Rays and SportsNet Toronto. He has written three other books about his baseball experiences

Hayhurst was happy to be back in Stark County for the book signing.

“It’s always a treat to come back home,” he said. “Since I was 19 I really haven’t been home in the summer because I was always traveling for baseball. So I always welcome a chance to come back to Canton.

Hayhurst and his wife, Bonnie, live in Hudson.

“We decided to move there because it is halfway between our parents’ homes. That way, they have to call before they come and can’t sneak up on us,” he said jokingly.

His job keeps him in Toronto about six months each year. When asked how he got picked for his position he just smiled and said, “Well, they were surprised that as a baseball player, I could put two sentences together back-to-back that made sense. So they hired me.”

The book signing was a family affair, with his wife sitting at the table with him and his parents and grandfather watching from the store’s cafe.

Bonnie talked a little about what it was like to be married to a major league player.

“It was really awesome to be in the stands and watch him out there,” she said. “But it was also hard because a lot of times we were separated when he was on the road. I also enjoyed traveling so that was a positive side when I could go with him. But I still missed him a lot during the season. Of course, I learned more about baseball and pitching then I ever thought I would.”

They also have another common bond in the “Garfoose,” a mythical half-giraffe, half-moose. This was developed to help Bonnie with her work with special-needs children. Eventually, it took on a life of its own with his baseball career. Now, when he signs books, he normally draws a rough caricature of the “Garfoose”. One book included the comment “respect the Garfoose” above the drawing.

His parents, Sam and Pat, sat in the bookstore’s cafe and watched their son with pride.

“This is so unrealistic,” Sam said. “It really doesn’t hit you at first.”

His father also pitched for Canton South, and when asked if Dirk got his talent from him he smiled and jokingly said “yes, he did, but I could hit.”

Pat, reflected on her son’s career.

“We told him that if he could get his college scholarship out of it, that was probably the best he could hope for. Realistically, we didn’t think he was good enough to make the majors. But he was determined and made it. But people don’t realize that these ballplayers are really entertainers. They don’t think of them as people with problems and needs like the rest of us.”

She had one final comment to make about her son’s talents.

“He may have gotten his pitching ability from his dad, but he got his gift of gab from me.”

Dirk agreed.

Ray Brown watched his grandson signing books and interacting with the people.

“I have always been very proud of him, especially when he pitched at Kent State,” Brown said. “I didn’t miss a home game the entire time he was there.”

The line of fans who came to purchase a book and have it signed was steady throughout the afternoon. Darlene Bennett and her daughter, Christie, arrived early. Both had attended Canton South, and Christie is a student at Kent State. Her mother had on a Canton South sweatshirt, and Christie wore one from each school. She eventually removed the Canton South one so she and her mother could represent both schools.

“We came out because he is from Canton South,” said Darlene. “I graduated in 1976 and wanted to get his latest book and have him sign it. It is nice to have someone from this area make good like he did.”

“I heard him speak once at Canton South,” Christie said. “And I am interested in baseball. I have read his first two books and am looking forward to reading this one.”

Niles Freday stopped to chat with Hayhurst and get a book signed. Though he didn’t go to Canton South, he had many nieces and nephews and his brothers who did.

Throughout the signing Hayhurst joked and chatted with fans of his books, obviously enjoying the opportunity to meet with people from his hometown. One woman wanted to buy his other books for gifts but unfortunately the store was sold out. But Hayhurst came to the rescue. He told her that a bookstore in Hudson where he lived had all his books, already signed. If she called the store and told them what name she wanted added to the books to personalize it, he would add the name the next time he stopped in. This made her happy to have this option.

Store manager Steve Smith was happy with the turnout.

“It is always nice when we can get a local celebrity like Hayhurst in for a book signing,” Smith said. “It gives people a chance to meet them and get a book signed.”