Of the several thousand young men who make their livings as Minor League Baseball players, there are at least several dozen who write and maintain their own blogs (the MLBlogs universe includes 25 such individuals).
While several of these player-bloggers are well known due to their "prospect" status, very few have built up a following due to the quality of their writing. One such individual is Kansas City farmhand Chris "Disco" Hayes, who is currently toeing the mound for the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals (and doing quite well -- he's currently 3-0 with an 0.96 ERA over eight appearances).
Hayes became a known quantity in the blogosphere last November, when he posted a tongue-in-cheek guest "interview" with super-prospect Matt Wieters on the Royals' Arizona Fall League blog. That led to an invitation to write for MLBlogs, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The "Disco Hayes" blog was launched in February, and since then it has built up a following due to its insightful and, above all, humorous musings on Minor League life. In order to get a more in-depth look at the man behind the blog, MiLB.com invited Hayes to take part in an email interview.
What follows is a peek into the mind of the one known as "Disco." Speaking of...
MiLB.com: For those who aren't "in the know," how did you end up with the nickname of "Disco"?
Chris Hayes: I throw in the '70s (mph).
MiLB.com: A very small percentage of Minor League ballplayers take the time to maintain a blog. How, and why, did you become a part of this distinguished minority?
CH: For me, it's fun. I enjoy writing and enjoy making people laugh. I've had a few people at games this year ask me for an autograph and say they love my blog. It always makes me smile to know people are getting a kick out of it. I still find it hard to believe people are actually reading my blog; perhaps they are all just humoring me.
A year ago I thought I had the most fun job in the world. We get paid to play a game we've loved our entire lives. Yes, the pay stinks now, and the hours and conditions aren't what they'll be in the bigs, but still you can't beat having a baseball field and a mound as your office. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do what I love and smile every day.
MiLB.com: Humor is a very big part of your writing style. Who are your influences in this regard?
CH: It was Voltaire who said, "God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." So if I had to pick a comedian I'm influenced by, I'd have to say Voltaire. In all honesty, I don't feel like I try to model myself after anyone in particular. I try to share the excitement and laughs the Minor League Baseball lifestyle presents me on a daily basis. I know there are plenty of people out there who wish they could be in a Minor League player's shoes. I try to do my best to put them in those shoes (especially if they are Crocs shower shoes) and share the laughs. I just try to write about what my life is like and what my experiences are. I try to put a funny spin on things, but for the most part, funny stuff just happens and I document it.
MiLB.com: The general perception of baseball players is that they are a self-serious lot, content to speak in clichés while adhering to bizarre superstitions and rituals. Is this a fair assessment, or do you see your blog as a chance to shatter such stereotypes?
CH: I think it would be unrealistic to expect my blog to eradicate the baseball cliché. Honestly, it's hard not to use clichés. You have to choose words wisely. ... I find myself a handful of words into, "It's just one of those things where you focus on the next pitch" and I want to eat my own ears because it's worthless chatter and it's coming out of my mouth and I can't control it. But set up a camera and interview yourself about your team's game last night and say nothing that could be controversial, even if taken out of context, and see how it goes.
As far as superstitions and rituals, I think that's within my reach. I'm going to do my best to put an end to them. I often ask players if they are superstitious and the answer is always "no." The answer always does not stop there. They say, "if I throw well, I won't change my underwear or something, but nothing really big. Oh yeah, and I always dress the left side of my body first before I put anything on the right half. So, no, I'm not really superstitious." My favorite answer all-time was a former college teammate of mine who didn't hesitate one second to answer the question if he was superstitious. "Hell no, that stuff is all stupid," he told me, "I don't do anything superstitious because if I ever do, I play bad. So I make sure I never do anything superstitious."
I couldn't say it better myself. If by the end of my blog's run every player is as adamantly non-superstitious as my ex-teammate, I will consider it a success.
MiLB.com: If baseball was not a part of your life, what do you think you'd be doing?
CH: Writing a blog even fewer people would read.
MiLB.com: Your wife has become a regular contributor to the blog, offering unique insight into what it's like to be married to a Minor Leaguer. Can we expect more guest writers in the future?
CH: I'm open for anything. My wife agreed with the terms of guest blogging: If my MLBlog ranking does not go up after your guest post, you are banned from posting again. The week prior to her post I was eighth out of 30-or-so "Pro Blogs" and the following week I came out in sixth place. If there's another guest who's confident enough to think they can do the same to my ranking, I'm happy to accept offers. It's only a matter of time before I'm at the No. 1 spot, especially if my wife keeps jumping me two spots per week.
MiLB.com: A lot of the anecdotes on your blog have revolved around getting used to life in the South. What are the best and worst aspects of living below the Mason-Dixon line?
CH: Perhaps the answer to both is it makes my blog more interesting. I guess it's safe to say I feel a bit out of place being from the North, but I've felt that way for years now in bullpen after bullpen. The majority of guys I've played with in pro ball seem to be from the South, so most bullpens speak in a dialect of English I did not grow up with. But I'm starting to get used to the language and to the abundance and reverence of Walmarts and Waffle Houses.
MiLB.com: You are a submarine-style pitcher with minimal velocity who signed with the Kansas City Royals as an undrafted free agent -- that's pretty much the definition of "underdog" right there. Do you identify with this role?
CH: I identify with being perceived as an underdog. I've had a lot of people tell me my career path from a walk-on and backup catcher in college to independent ball to winter ball in Colombia to an open tryout with the Royals makes for a great "underdog" story. But to me, stories aside, an underdog is a player or team that isn't as good as the competition and needs some luck to come out on top. If the underdog plays the favorite, he may win one out of 10 times. In this sense, I don't identify with underdog-dom at all. At no point during my "underdog story" have I doubted I had what it took to make the big leagues. I may not be perceived as having great "stuff" because I don't throw hard, but I have the upper hand every time a batter steps in the box. I believe that 100 percent and always will, regardless of who steps in. Though I know I'm perceived as an underdog and a great story, I identify with the favorite. The underdog looks shocked when he wins and storms the court. I will be thrilled when I take the mound for the first time in the big leagues, but I won't be surprised at all.
MiLB.com: As a low arm-slotted pitcher with a knack for writing in the Royals organization, you have to get some Dan Quisenberry comparisons. Is it something you've run into within the organization and with fans so far in your career?
CH: "Quiz" is a legend not just with the Royals, but across baseball. He had an influence on the game and fans both on and off the field. In that regard, he's a guy I really look up to. I've had a lot of questions about following in his footsteps and it's something I'm definitely aware of. I try to make a point to learn as much about not only his baseball success, but his success as a fan favorite and a genuine asset to the community. A few members of our player development personnel were either teammates or coaches of Quisenberry's years ago, so I try to get as much info on the baseball front as I can from those guys. One quick example is Duke Wathan (who caught Quiz for years with the Royals) telling me how Quiz was able to finish his motion perfectly behind the ball and at home games in white pants, the ball was almost impossible for the hitter to see.
Quiz is obviously revered by Royals fans as he symbolizes how much fun baseball can be. He is an integral part of the Royals' rich playoff tradition and the fans all seem to feel they knew him on a personal level. I hope to emulate him in both regards.
MiLB.com: When Hollywood comes knocking, wanting to turn your life story into a movie, who would you suggest should play you?
CH: To quote Team America: World Police -- "Matt Damon."
MiLB.com: Rumor has it that Rowdy Hardy, a fellow soft-tossing lefty control specialist in the Royals organization, is now learning to throw sidearm. What do you think about the fact that he is blatantly copying your style?
CH: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And a submarine motion is the most flattering form of dominating hitters. You can't blame Rowdy for flattering me and for wanting to look as good as I do, can you?
MiLB.com: Including yourself, there are seven individuals with the name "Chris Hayes" who have their own Wikipedia entries. Do you foresee a coming Chris Hayes revolution, in which more and more people with that name assume a place of prominence in American society?
CH: First and foremost, I'm flattered you've typed my name in a Wikipedia search. Secondly, I just tried it and this is fun. We have an ex-NFL player, an ex-NHL player, Huey Lewis & The News' guitarist and backup vocalist, an Australian politician, a Canadian sky diver, and a journalist. You may say, "Wow, we'd make an outstanding team of superheroes that could attack via gridiron, ice, or through the air ... all while singing and lying our way past our enemies and then spreading the word of our work across the world." You'd be correct.
But here's the bad news I have to break -- all seven of those Chris Hayes' are me. You need proof? I'll just give you some coincidences that may just have you scratching your head.
The NFL-er and I both did not get drafted in 2005. Neither the NHL-er nor I are engraved on the Stanley Cup. With the publication of this article, both the musician and I are in The News. The politician and I come from down under. The baseball player and I are strikingly good-looking.
The journalist and I are both, well journalists ... and we were married in Chicago in 2007 ... though not to each other. So you see, it's not that there's a community of Chris Hayes' taking over the world, it's that I'm taking over the world and one Wikipedia article just can't handle me. I'm so big, I need seven articles.
What's that? I only mentioned six? OK, fine ... I wouldn't be caught dead jumping out of a plane.
MiLB.com: Finally -- have you ever spent time on an actual submarine? If not, then isn't a little disingenuous for you to have adopted such a style?
CH: Has your tongue ever literally been in your cheek? A little hypocritical on your part here, eh?
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. Royals pitcher Chris Hayes contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.