Junior’s love for sport goes back many years

By: Nathan Hoy

“Next!”

The batter at the plate slowly walks off as junior Ethan Hayes replaces him, silencing the crowd so the only thing that can be heard is his slow, deep breaths and the swift noise of the bat swinging through the air as he takes a practice swing. All eyes are fixed on the 6’2” junior, but his eyes are solely fixed on the pitcher as he takes a step back and winds up for the throw.

Hayes, however, is completely in his favorite place; the place where he feels the most comfortable. The nerves pass quickly, and as the ball quickly flies away from the pitcher’s hand, a loud crack is heard throughout the diamond. Hayes once again makes contact and brings yet another runner home.

Growing up, Hayes was surrounded by baseball. He lived near an older kid who was huge into the sport and watched his every move. It suddenly clicked for Hayes. He genuinely loved the sport.

At age four he started playing T-ball and never looked back. In second grade, kid pitch baseball started, and from age 9 to 14, he played in a tournament league.

Hayes’ father has always been part of the foundation of his baseball career as well. “He was actually a football player in high school, but he always liked baseball and most importantly was always super supportive of what we wanted to do,” Hayes said. “He coached me all the way growing up, and when I got serious, he did loads of research on players around the state and drove me all around the country.”

In the fall, Hayes competes on a club team called Iowa Select. Throughout the club season there are basically three tournaments altogether and games every other weekend where they play against the best teams in the Midwest. Hayes made the team after playing in a tournament and being invited to a tryout where he placed in the top out of so many where he was then asked to play on the elite team.

In reality, baseball never really stops for the junior. In the spring he plays in a league called perfect game where they throw a bunch of kids on a team to see who’s got what.

When high school rolled around, Hayes found himself playing on the freshmen team and a little JV as a ninth grader.

Throughout the season, he looked up to some of the older classmen, especially Brady Corson who now plays baseball at Iowa Central. Corson helped Hayes develop his game through his freshman year and gave the young prospect a spark of hope to play up on varsity the following year, and that’s exactly what happened.

As a sophomore, Hayes found himself stationed at third base playing a critical role for the varsity team. The friendships quickly developed with the rest of the team, and Hayes quickly felt right at home. All of the older boys were tremendously supportive and saw a lot of potential in the sophomore.

The first game came around, and Hayes found himself sitting in the dugout, hands shaking and head racing with nerves. “That’s when Brady came over and told me to relax and play the way I had been in practice,” Hayes said. “Suddenly the nerves actually started to pass. To have that support was more helpful than anyone could have imagined.”

Suddenly the letters started to come, and Hayes realized the game he loved so much didn’t have to stop at the end of his senior year of high school. “Most scouting is done in the fall, and since there were good players on the team last year, there were always scouts at the game,” Hayes said. “They would always talk to me in the fall, and I would attend a lot of those schools’ camps in the winter.”

At the end of January, the now junior visited Bradley and found it to be quite appealing. He has talked to a lot of Missouri Valley schools and some Big East schools but has narrowed it down to three or four schools at this point.

The memories made with baseball have been incredible for Hayes throughout the years. “Growing up, staying in hotels and playing in tournaments all over the country have been some of the greatest memories of my life,” Hayes said. “Once in the fall I played against a kid who was ranked fourth in the entire country, and I’ve been able to play against kids and then later watch them get drafted. It’s a pretty cool experience.”

He was also able to attend the college world series with the rest of the high school team.

“The ability to get strong enough mentally to fail 65 percent of the time and want to get right back at it is something that makes me want to pursue the game and continue to improve it,” Hayes said. “You gotta think so much, and it is a lot different than what people watching might think. I just enjoy it more than anything. It’s where I truly feel at home.”

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