By Jordan Hall
The perfect dream for many kids growing up became a reality for former Bronc Jamie Hayes.
Rider’s all-time saves leader was drafted by his favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, in the 48th round of the Major League Baseball Draft on June 11.
“It was a dream come true to hear my name called,” said Hayes, a 2009 business economics graduate. “Ever since I was a little kid and could remember, I always dreamed of playing for the Braves because that was the team I grew up watching all the time. For that to actually happen is unbelievable for my family and myself.”
Hayes worked hard at every level, even when many doubted him. The 6’0”, 195 pounder came to Rider’s campus from a great distance. Hayes graduated from Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla., where his aspiration to play collegiately and professionally began.
The versatile prospect jumped at the offer of becoming a Bronc because, quite frankly, not many college coaches believed in Hayes.
“Coming out of high school, there weren’t many opportunities for me,” Hayes said.
Broncs head coach Barry Davis saw something different than the others and gave him that opportunity, which Hayes took full advantage of, making it all worthwhile in his four years at Rider.
“Coach Davis is a great coach and I learned a great deal from him,” Hayes said. “I was able to learn a lot from him because we were able to talk about situations that would occur in the game or about strategy. I was never afraid to tell him what I thought, and he would ask for my opinions on things as well. I am very grateful for the opportunities he gave me.”
Hayes was recruited and signed as an infielder for Rider, but he transformed into a dominant college pitcher as well.
The perfect definition of an elite utility player, Hayes played outfield, infield and pitcher in his career with the Broncs, performing above average in each position.
The do-it-all star graduated as one of Rider’s all-time greats. Hayes banged out 265 hits, plated 180 runs, swiped 96 bases and nailed down 33 saves, all school records.
In 2008, he impressed scouts the most by setting career highs with a 3.16 ERA, three wins, 11 saves, 31.1 innings pitched, 41 strikeouts and an opponent’s batting average of .239 while being named the New Jersey Collegiate Baseball Association Division I Player of the Year.
Overall, Hayes finished as a .330 hitter with a .422 on-base percentage and, from the hill, he had 104 strikeouts with a 3.90 ERA.
This outstanding résumé landed him in the Braves’ organization where he is currently playing in the Rookie Gulf Coast League and thriving as a relief pitcher. Hayes has thrown in 12 games, going 14.2 innings with one win, 11 punch-outs, and only two walks. Most impressively, he’s sporting a 0.61 ERA and an opponent’s batting average of only .226.
“I think it has gone about as well as it could,” Hayes said. “I’ve been throwing a lot of strikes with all my pitches, keeping my walks down and getting a lot of ground ball outs.”
Even though Hayes has made it look as if life in the minors is easy, he admits that it’s a big change and a lot different from his previous playing days.
“The major transition I’ve had to deal with was the switch from an everyday player to being just a bullpen guy and not knowing when you are going to pitch,” Hayes said. “I have an itch to want to go out there and play every day still, but I feel this is the best situation for me and I could not ask for more.”
The difficult task of competing professionally and the different meaning of playing in the minor leagues compared to college has made Hayes appreciate his time as a Bronc even more.
“I had a great four years at Rider and that is one thing I will always miss — being able to play everyday and compete for that one common goal,” he said. “Whereas for now, it’s more about developing players more so than winning. It’s tough to be a part of that.”
As of now though, Hayes is living the dream he always hoped for. He understands that this is one small step to achieving his ultimate goal: making it to the MLB with the Atlanta Braves in the near future and winning a World Series.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Hayes said.