This is going to be the best blog entry ever. Because it’s an interview with Chris Hayes.
If that “lede” (and yes, that’s how it’s spelled) sounds at all familiar, it’s because you were one of the many who loved the Kansas City Royals’ relief prospect’s guest blog entry this past fall when he was pitching for the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.
We (okay, Jonathan Mayo) had the idea of running separate blogs for each of the 30 organizations, with one AFL player from each team designated the “primary” blogger but in hopes that their teammates would pitch in with guest blogs.
Hayes’ entry went down in history as one of the funniest things on MLBlogs in 2008, bar none.
The Northwestern University grad conducted a mock … very mock … as in he made the whole thing up … interview with uberprospect Matt Wieters, his teammate and occasional battery-mate with Surprise.
If you’re reading my blog, you know who Matt Wieters is. The catcher of the future, the very near future, with the Baltimore Orioles, one of the best prospects in the game and also one of the nicest.
But still, when Hayes got the idea to handle his guest blog entry this way, none of his bullpen buddies thought he’d actually go through with it.
“I told everyone in the bullpen my idea and they all said, ‘no way, you can’t do it, it would be hilarious but you won’t do it,'” recalled Hayes, who got Wieters’ full permission before he wrote the entry. “He’s a super-nice guy, really laid back, and I think he thought I was a weirdo anyway.”
Hayes, a submarine-style who signed with the Royals in 2006 out of a tryout camp a year after receiving his degree in computer science from Northwestern, pretty much forgot about the blog entry once he hit “send,” until the kudos started pouring in.
“I was surprised because when I was writing it, I thought no one would read it,” said Hayes, who added he is still actively receiving responses from people who read the sole entry. “It’s kind of flattering but I also wish people knew me for being a baseball player.”
That shouldn’t take long, if he continues to put up the numbers he’s been posting of late.
Working in relief for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the Double-A Texas League, Hayes posted a 1.64 ERA in 40 games out of the pen, collecting 12 saves and striking out 39 batters in 65 2/3 innings while walking 13. He ranked fifth in the league (and second in the Royals organization) in saves, second in runners allowed per nine innings (8.63).
Undrafted out of Northwestern, the now-26-year-old began his pro career pitching in 2005 for the Windy City ThunderBolts, an independent league team in his hometown Chicago. He caught the eye of a few scouts who invited him to come to Arizona that winter for their invitation-only tryouts.
While he didn’t make the initial cut at his first tryout, while leaving the stadium a fellow player asked if he’d be going to the Royals’ open tryout later that week. Hayes hadn’t heard anything about it but figured as long as he was in town, why not?
Out of just under 100 prospective players, Hayes was one of four invited to stick around and let the team get a second look at him, and the next day he received a call asking him to sign with the team.
He spent his first two seasons, 2006-2007, at Class A Burlington, posting a 2.79 ERA in 45 games in his debut and a 3.10 in 42 in ’07 before moving up to Double-A in 2008.
And the ever-burgeoning squad of Chris Hayes fan can rejoice. Not only will they get to see their new hero pitch in 2009, they’ll also get to read his blog entries on a more regular basis, as he will be a regular blogger here at GotMiLB.
GotMiLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Hayes: Getting married would be one of them, graduating college, and then getting signed was obviously something I was excited about because I wasn’t drafted.
GotMiLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
Hayes: That’s a good question. I was a computer science major and pretty much everyone I graduated with went off to Seattle and worked for Microsoft. But I never saw myself doing that, even though I’m trained as a programmer. I couldn’t imagine sitting at a 9-to-5 desk job every day. So maybe something front office-related in baseball that combined my computer science with my love for baseball.
GotMiLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
Hayes: I’m an accomplished chess player. I started when I was a kid and would go to nationals in chess tournaments. But there is a huge time commitment to compete at that level so when I got to high school I scaled down the amount of time I spent studying and playing chess to focus more on sports because I figured I could play chess at any age and baseball, obviously I couldn’t.
GotMiLB: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Hayes: I’ve been lucky that I really haven’t had any bad ones. But when we were in college, we had to clean up the football stadium on Sunday mornings after Saturday football games. 20 people cleaning a stadium that sits 50,000 at 7 in the morning in Chicago.
GotMiLB: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Hayes: Matt Damon. When I was in school, “Good Will Hunting” came out and I got that relatively often, that I looked exactly like him. It’s funny, his wife actually looks quite a bit like my wife. (GotMiLB note: As you can tell from the pictures, he’s not just blowing smoke up people’s you-know-what. He really does look a lot like Damon. And I haven’t seen a picture of his wife but I’m betting they are America’s cutest couple.)
GotMiLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
Hayes: I think the moving around. The lack of any kind of permanence. Like, my wife and I are trying to register our car and do we register in Illinois? In Arizona? Where did we vote? All the forms ask for current residence when I haven’t had one for years. When you get pots and pans for your wedding, you can’t fit them in the car. Our whole life has to fit in the car.
GotMiLB: Who is the most unusual character you’ve met in your pro baseball career?
Hayes: I could put any left handed pitcher in there. Oh my God, it is absolutely true what they say about them. I’ll go with (2008 Naturals teammate) Tim Hamulack. Physically, he’s an absolute specimen, a freak of nature. You walk into the weight room and the laws of physics don’t apply to him. And he’ll say all this off-the-wall stuff but he’s really intelligent so he can back it up.