Midland manager Von Hayes piloted the RockHounds to the first-half Western Division championship in the Texas League, clinching the club's first playoff berth since 1995. Twenty-five years ago, Hayes was tearing up the Midwest League on his way to winning that circuit's Most Valuable Player Award.
In 1980, Hayes was a 21-year-old making his professional debut for the Waterloo Indians. The Cleveland Indians had selected him in the seventh round of the 1979 June draft out of St. Mary's College (Calif.).
The left-handed hitting Hayes batted a league-best .329 for Waterloo with 15 homers and 90 RBIs. He also led the league with 162 hits and 33 doubles.
"It was my first year of professional baseball and I had just signed with the Indians," Hayes recalled. "We ended up winning the Midwest League that year. It was a good overall season. It was a good start for my professional career. I really enjoyed it.
"It jump started me to instructional ball right after that season and then on to winter ball. Then the next year I was playing with the Cleveland Indians. I made the big league team out of Spring Training."
Hayes was asked if he remembered a 1980 doubleheader against Appleton in which his teammate Dane Anthony tossed a no-hitter in the first game and then Jack Nuismer and Appleton's Chuck Fox both tossed one-hitters in the nightcap. He didn't hesitate.
"Absoultely!" Hayes said. "That was probably one of the most amazing doubleheaders I've been involved in. Dane Anthony did throw the no-hitter. But the second game, Jack Nuismer actually pitched what I thought was a better game. Both of them were shutouts, but Nuismer gave up one hit. But I don't think he walked anybody, whereas Dane Anthony threw the no-hitter but walked a couple guys."
Waterloo won the first-half North Division title in 1980 and beat second-half winner Wisconsin Rapids in the first round of the playoffs and then Quad City for the Midwest League championship.
Gary Gaetti and Kent Hrbek were members of that Wisconsin Rapids club. Hayes beat Gaetti by one one-thousandth of a percentage point for the league's best fielding percentage by a third baseman.
"Probably with about 35 errors or more," Hayes joked. "That [Waterloo] was a tough field to play on."
Actually he had 26 errors. Gaetti had 35, while setting the league record for most chances and assists for a third baseman in a season. Gaetti's marks still stand today.
After two seasons with Cleveland, Hayes was dealt in December of 1982 to Philadelphia for five players, including a guy named Julio Franco. Yes that Julio Franco, who is still playing with the Atlanta Braves.
That fact that a player he was traded for 23 years ago is still playing in the Majors is not lost on Hayes.
"I laugh about it," Hayes said. "He's killing me. He's like the ghost that won't go away. I'm happy for Julio and I think it's great that he's still playing. He's a tremendous player. I look at it kind of like it's a compliment. They [Philadelphia] considered enough of me to trade for him. I'm happy for him. It's one of those trades where you kind of wish that 'enough is enough,' ya know?" Hayes laughed.
Hayes went on to play 12 seasons in the Majors with Cleveland, Philadelphia and California. He then retired to St. Petersburg, Fla., with his wife and daughter.
"When I got out of baseball, my daughter had just been born and my son was soon to be on the way," Hayes stated. "I spent the first eight years after I retired from the Major Leagues just raising my family around the St. Pete area."
Then he got a phone call from an old teammate, Ron Hassey, who was managing the South Bend Silver Hawks in, fittingly, the Midwest League. Hassey wanted to know if Hayes would like to get back in the game and be his hitting coach in 2002.
"It hit me at the right time because I was starting to really miss baseball again," Hayes said. "I decided to get back in at that point as a hitting coach. Spent a year as the hitting coach and decided that wasn't doing it for me because once the game started there's really nothing to do and the game was out of your hands."
South Bend was last in both halves in 2002.
"So I wanted to be a little bit more involved and requested to manage the next year in South Bend," Hayes said. "It was a rewarding year. We finished over .500 and made a tremendous comeback in the second half to make the playoffs. I had a lot of fun with the personnel."
The 2003 Silver Hawks finished with an overall record of 72-64, losing to Lansing in the first round of the playoffs.
Last season, Hayes joined the Oakland organization and was assigned to manage the Modesto A's in the California League. Modesto finished atop the North Division in both halves on its way to winning the California League championship. Hayes was named the loop's manager of the year.
Hayes, who was one of the coaches for the World Team in the July 10 All-Star Futures Game, doesn't think he has a particular managerial style. He believes that the makeup of a team determines style of managing. He has tried to incorporate things he picked up from every skipper he had in the Majors into his managing.
"I certainly learned a lot from all my managers," Hayes said. "Buck Rodgers, the last manager I had, had some interesting styles with the hit-and-run play. Lee Elia was another guy that I thought handled the pitching staffs pretty good and handled the players very well and was personable. I think you learn a little bit from everybody. You realize that getting along with personnel and knowing how to handle guys is very important as a manager."
Like Minor League Baseball players, the 1989 National League All-Star is looking to advance up the ladder to the Majors. But, not necessarily as a manager.
"I think that's probably everybody's ultimate goal. You get the opportunity to give an interview, and given the right situation, that would definitely be a goal. But it's not the end all either.
"Another goal of mine would be a bench coach. I like to be involved in the game, and given the right situation, and what's right for my family, that would be outstanding."
Given the fact that Hayes has led all three of his Minor League clubs to the playoffs, a Major League job may not be that far off. Who knows, maybe he can even coach or manage Julio Franco.
Steve Densa is a contributor for MLB.com.