|Ke'Bryan Hayes, image- Jay Floyd|
With the Altoona Curve this season, the righty batting Hayes sports a .293 average with 21 doubles, six triples, four homers and 21 RBI in 74 games.
He was a first round draft selection of Pittsburgh in 2016.
Last week at the Eastern League All-Star festivities, along with Trentonian reporter Kyle Franko, I spoke with the 21-year-old who also plays third base. We talked with Ke'Bryan about the influence of his father and his brother Tyree, who pitched in the Reds system, what the All-Star nods mean to him, his biggest goal and more. Read ahead for that interview.
-Do you feel like you were building toward this All-Star moment with the season you've had?
I mean, I was kind of just trying to go out each and everyday to do what I can to help my team win and if I'm able to make it and represent my team, then I'm happy that I'm able to be here.
-I was talking with Craig Biggio's son on the other side of the field and he was commenting on his early baseball memories. Are there standout baseball memories from your youth that stuck with you?
Yeah, just definitely seeing-- all of it whenever I look back. Seeing how far I came and where I started, my first select team and it just brings back nostalgia moments.
-Did you attend your dad's games as a youngster or are you not even old enough to remember those playing days of your dad?
I was four when my dad retired, so I don't remember anything.
-Is that weird though, 'cause you'll see guys that play for coaches that are in reporters' memories as guys we watched, but there are players on their teams that have no recollection of the coaches' playing days. Do you go back and watch footage of your dad with him and stuff like that?
Yeah, I definitely look. He has a bunch of video and when I was younger I would watch a lot of video from whenever he played, so it's awesome to be able to see. And he always had stories for me and my brothers. They were older than me, so they got to experience, like, all that in the clubhouse and they tell me all the stories of all the great players he played with.
-I talked to your dad last year...and he was really proud of you and talked about staying home and not returning to baseball until the last child was out of the house, then getting back to his second career in baseball as a coach. What does his support mean to you?
Yeah, he's always been there for me. Just, always having him as an outlet, him and my brother, 'cause they've already been through it, I think it's a great advantage that I have, to have them in my corner.
-Do you ever talk about how much the game has changed from when he played to what it is now?
Every now and then he'll talk about how much bigger and stronger guys are getting and he can't believe guys like Stanton, Judge- how far they're hitting the ball and stuff like that.
-You've got the Futures Game coming up. What did that say to you when you found out you were selected for that?
Man, I was just super surprised, 'cause I had just found out I was coming to this and the Futures Game is something that I've been watching the past few years and it's something that I wanted to play (in), but I wasn't even thinking about it. And when my manager told me I was going, I was at a loss for words. I couldn't believe it.
-Is there anybody that you're looking forward to playing with today that you normally compete against?
It's awesome to play with all the best guys from the league and just ask them questions and just get to watch them play and get to hand out with them.
-Are there any bumps in the road or hurdles you've run into over the past couple years that stick out to you as key learning moments?
Yeah, two years ago I had a broken rib injury and I was out for a while and that was the first time in my life that I've ever been hurt for so long and not able to play and it just made me put things in perspective of how lucky I am to be able to be able to play this game. So, it just helped me work even harder whenever I came back from that.
-Your family has local ties with your dad playing in both Philly and New York. Is it cool for you to be playing in this area and in a Yankees affiliate stadium?
Oh, yeah definitely. With him playing in a World Series and he caught the last out with the Yankees. Yeah, it's awesome to be able to play. A lot of people telling me how he was one of their favorite players growing up.
-Is that staff here that have been telling you that?
Some of the fans here, some of the staff too.
-So, what team did you grow up as a fan of?
I was a Yankees fan growing up. I little bit of the Astros. I used to go to a couple of the games with some friends and stuff. But I was a Yankees fan.
-Did you grow up collecting memorabilia or collecting cards?
Yeah, my older brother has balls from Jeter, Griffey, A-Rod, a whole bunch of stuff. I used to collect cards a little bit. I'd get the little packs and stuff at the store, but I wasn't that huge on it.
-Did your dad have any collection of mementos from his career?
Yeah, he has the last out ball and the World Series ring up in the movie theater room. So, he has quite a bit of memorabilia.
-All on display in a prominent fashion?
Yeah, like in a case.
-Did you ever find yourself admiring or taking a moment to look at those items and think about having something like that of your own some day?
Oh, yeah. Definitely. I gotta be better than my dad. I'm going to be better than my dad one day. That's my goal.
-I hope that's his goal too.
Yes, sir. He wants me to be.