Former Pack star fights for spot with Diamondbacks
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As a journeyman catcher who previously played for three Major League Baseball teams, former University of Nevada player Brett Hayes yearns to be on the Diamondbacks’ roster once spring training ends.
After playing for Cleveland last year and then being sent down to Triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio, late in the season Hayes signed a minor league contract with Arizona — his fourth team — in November. In 32 at-bats in 2015 with the Indians, Hayes had five hits, which included three home runs and six RBI. He added two home runs and 17 RBI at Columbus in 176 appearances.
In addition to playing for Cleveland, Hayes has caught for Kansas City and Miami. As a seven-year veteran in 189 Major League games, Hayes compiled a .250 batting average in 434 at-bats, including 89 hits (26 doubles and 13 home runs). He also batted in 37 runs.
Coincidentally, Hayes’ father was a fourth-round selection of the Kansas City Royals and a great grandfather played for the Cleveland Indians.
Hayes, nevertheless, has had a upbeat attitude at the Diamondbacks spring training facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, a five-year-old state-of-the-art complex in the most northeastern part of Scottsdale. The easy-going Hayes, who has a leading Hollywood actor’s looks and a kidding nature about him, knows his quest to play in the majors is a formidable one.
“As a catcher in spring training, I’m trying to learn the pitchers … their throws and set up,” Hayes explained, standing near his locker in the clubhouse before a morning workout.
Although he has been in camp for a month, Hayes said learning from teammates who have World Series experience or Hall of Fame players on the Diamondbacks’ staff has been a plus.
“This is a good organization from the front office to the field staff,” Hayes said. “There are so many opportunities to learn from the professionals. This is the place to be.”
Northern Nevada baseball fans, though, remember Hayes’ collegiate career with the Wolf Pack. Hayes was named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American. He was selected to the all-WAC team for three straight seasons.
On the other hand, Hayes hasn’t forgotten about Nevada since he left to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues.
“Reno has been good to me,” Hayes said, taking several seconds to reflect on his playing days for the Wolf Pack and for retired coach Gary Powers. “Coach Powers and I keep in contact. He helped me through college and pro ball. This shows what kind of place Nevada is.”