Footsteps Followed: Hayes chases dream

2015 pick following MLB path already fulfilled by father Charlie

By Greg Wong / West Virginia Power | June 9, 2016 4:21 PM ET

It was not until he was seven years old that Power third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes really started to understand who is father was. After all, he was only four when Charlie Hayes retired after a nine-year Major League career that featured stints on seven different big league clubs.

"He's told me about how he brought me into the clubhouse, but I don't really remember it," Hayes said. "My brothers have told me some of the players they got to meet. Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds."

"Once I started understanding baseball a lot, I was able to go on the computer and look him up," Hayes remembered. "I looked up his stats and watch videos of him."

Now it's Ke'Bryan that scouts across the country are watching video of after he was selected by the Pirates with the 32nd pick of the 2015 Major League Baseball amateur draft out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas. Hayes is now one of the top prospects in the Pirates organization and is standing out for more than just his last name.

"Definitely growing up as a kid people always said 'hey there's Charlie Hayes' son' or stuff like that," Ke'Bryan noted.

Charlie Hayes played nine seasons in the major leagues, a career that includes a laundry list of places and teams: The Giants, the Phillies, the Yankees, the Rockies, back with the Phillies, the Pirates, back with the Yankees, back with the Giants, the Brewers and the Astros. He is perhaps best known for catching the final out of the 1996 World Series as a member of the Yankees, the first of four titles in five years won by New York.

"One of the best things that he showed me is the ring from the World Series he won" Ke'Bryan mentioned. "Seeing that was pretty cool."

Following his retirement from baseball in 2001, Charlie founded a baseball instructional facility called "Big League Baseball Academy" in Tomball, Texas, the same place where he raised three boys.

"Growing up with him was definitely an advantage for me," Ke'Bryan, the youngest of the family, explained. "From a very young age he's been putting me in situations that are going to help me throughout my life."

Hayes was a three sport athlete growing up, playing baseball, basketball and football. Once he reached high school he decided to primarily focus on baseball, but not because his father pushed him to it.

 "He always told me and my brothers if you don't want to play baseball you don't have to" Hayes remembered. "I was just always better at baseball so I decided to focus on that."

Of course, it helped that his baseball coach was also his father. Charlie coached Ke'Bryan at his Academy from when he was seven until he started high school at the age of 14. After a long career that included the pressure of a World Series, the elder Hayes made sure his son was properly prepared for every situation.

"If the bases were loaded during one of our games he would call timeout and put me in the game because he always wanted me to be in the pressure situation," Ke'Bryan recalled. "He was pretty hands on."

Apart from on the field, there were other perks to being the son of a long-time big leaguer. While Hayes has almost zero recollection of the time his dad was a ballplayer, he's been able to meet plenty of big time Major Leaguers because of his dad's success. Hayes went to many Astros games as a kid and Charlie would constantly bring him down to the clubhouse to interact with different major leaguers. 

There was one particular experience that stood out to Hayes, "We were at the Astros game, and me and a few friends were walking on the concourse. All of the sudden, I get a call from Derek Jeter on my phone! I guess my dad was down there and he told him to call me. Unfortunately I couldn't really hear him, so I hung up."

Life in the minor leagues is one of the biggest adjustments for young baseball players, not just because of the long bus rides and low wages, but also the grind of playing almost every single day. The teenager said that was the hardest adjustment for him once he started playing professionally last season.

"You have to get your body hydrated, you have to lift, you have to do all those things everyday for you to go out there and play your best," he said. "The workday is what sets you up."

Luckily, his father has plenty of experience to draw on and give guidance to Ke'Bryan.

"Since I was nine he's been preparing me to play a whole minor league season. I just try to soak in as much as possible."

"He's been on my path. He knows what pitchers are trying to do and what type of routine you're going through."

Now that Ke'Bryan is away from home and experiencing that full 140 game minor league season, Charlie still keeps tabs on him wherever he is, even if there's no video to watch him play.

"Whenever he can't watch the game he stills listens to the game and can tell what I'm doing."

"He'll call me and say something like 'You probably didn't get your front foot down fast enough' or 'you didn't have your hands back.'"

It may help that it's as if Charlie is critiquing himself.

"Whenever coaches see me they say I'm exactly like him. The way I look, my mannerisms and everything. My mom always says that too."

Ke'Bryan now has a chance to build his own baseball legacy, and if the similarities between him and his father continue, he will end up having a long and memorable baseball career.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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