A year ago, Ke’Bryan Hayes was set on going to Tennessee. He committed there during his sophomore year of high school and his mother Gelinda emphasized the value of education over all to her three children growing up.
But his father saw something else.
Charlie Hayes, who spent 14 years in the major-leagues that included one with the Pirates, saw what laid ahead of his son if he began his professional career out of high school. Either way, he was going to let his son make his own choice.
“His mom is big on school,” Charlie said. “I tried not to swing it one way or the other, the whole time she was saying college I was saying pro ball. I didn’t care if he went in the 30th round, I know what it takes to be a major leaguer and I saw all those qualities in him at a very young age.”
Ke’Bryan eventually sided with his father’s way of thinking of his own accord after his success over the last year. At Concordia Lutheran High School in Texas, Hayes hit .436 with three home run and 27 RBI in leading his team to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) state championship.
Hayes also hit .486 with the USA Junior National team at the Tournament of Stars in 2014 and was a 2015 preseason Perfect Game All-American.
“Probably 10 months ago I’d say I was going to be going to college without a doubt,” Ke’Bryan said. “This past summer playing against all the top competition I did pretty well and it just gave me a confidence-booster. It just made me want to just go out and start my pro career because I had confidence that I’m just as good as all these kids that they’re saying are top prospects.”
Tuesday, the Pirates introduced No. 32 overall pick Ke’Bryan Hayes, taken with the pick earned with the loss of Russell Martin to the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency. He will report to the Gulf Coast League Pirates who begin play Monday.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the third baseman has an advanced feel for the game, an important quality for an 18-year-old. Hayes profiles as someone who could turn into solid two-way third baseman who can hit well for average with some power.
“Ke’Bryan is a young man that our scouts like so many of his attributes on and off the field,” Huntington said. “We love the way he swings the bat, he’s got tremendous barrel to the ball for a young hitter. We think there’s power coming as he matures. We want him to continue to be a great hitter first and foremost.”
Huntington added the Pirates love his hands, feet and arm on defense as well as his work ethic and the way Hayes handles himself on the field.
The work ethic is something instilled from his parents, who laid out criteria for Hayes to be able to forgo college and begin playing pro ball. Ke’Bryan first told his mother he wanted to skip college, news Gelinda carried to Charlie asking what her son needed to improve on to be prepared for his next step.
“I said number one he needs to work with a purpose and he needs to focus,” Charlie said. “I said the discipline part, on and off the field, I’m not worried about that because you’re a great mom. But I need you to watch him and make sure those things we talk about with focus, working with a purpose, he’s doing those things.”
Ke’Bryan’s focus and purposeful work over the next few months swayed any doubts his mother had about his decision.
“She came to me in March and she said ‘my baby’s going away,'” Charlie said.
Hayes said he didn’t want to be stuck in class when he could be out taking grounder or swings and that he will be better equipped in an environment where his development as a baseball player is the priority.
“I feel like I’ll be able to learn more with major league instructors,” Hayes said. “I can work on my body specifically and eat specifically. Everything that major-league clubs have to offer for me in the minor leagues, I feel like they would develop me better as a player.”
Hayes, someone with power that will eventually emerge, said he’s already been told not to change his focus at the plate. The Pirates as an organization stress the importance of developing good hitters with power, not just power hitters.
“They just told me to go out and just don’t change anything,” Hayes said. “As you get stronger and bigger you’ll naturally develop power and they harped on that, even in their minor leagues, they’re developing hitters first and they’ll naturally learn power.”
And, with the Pirates recent track record of developing young players, Hayes looks forward to the opportunity to play in the club’s system.
“Coming in I’m really confident being drafted by the Pirates and I’m really confident that I’ll develop into a big-leaguer,” Hayes said.