Hayes enjoys time working with Express

Former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes helps Chase Padot, 14, of Stephens City get his head positioned while working inside the batting cage during a Strasburg Express baseball camp in Strasburg on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG — Charlie Hayes has always been a believer in giving back, that’s why it’s no surprise that the former Major Leaguer is in Strasburg for a few days to help out the Strasburg Express.

Hayes arrived on Monday and will leave Friday morning. He’s acting as an assistant coach for three games and helping with a batting camp the Express is running Wednesday and Thursday.

“I like it here,” Hayes said after the first day of Strasburg’s camp at First Bank Park. “The people are great. The people have been so nice to me. I look forward to getting up every day to come here to hang out.”

The 15-year Major Leaguer is part of the Strasburg Express Scouting Network, which was formed late last year to help the Express find players for the team and the Valley Baseball League.

He said Strasburg’s director of player development Duke Dickerson, who is also in town this week, helped him get some players from his academy into college so he wanted to help Dickerson and the Express out as well.

Former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes watches batters work inside the batting cage during the Strasburg Express baseball camp. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hayes said he’s enjoyed being around the Express players and sees some potential in them.

“They got a good group of kids, an excellent coaching staff, real positive people,” Hayes said. “I’ve been hanging around for two days now with these guys and I haven’t really been saying a whole lot. I threw BP one day to just kind of get a read on the kids. There’s a few kids here that I think [are] going to have the opportunity to play at the next level.”

Hayes runs Big League Baseball Academy in Tomball, Texas. It is an academy for kids ages 8-18, and Hayes said it’s been running for 10 years now.

Hayes said one of his former Major League teammates Ron Jones came to him with an idea of starting an academy in late 2004. Hayes agreed to it and he said when they started they had only 24 kids, but it soon grew to 150.

However, a year after they started the academy Jones died. Hayes said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue with the academy, but he said his wife talked him into it.

Former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes gives Luke Churchhill, 14, of Winchester, some batting tips during the Strasburg Express's baseball camp on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

“For two months I didn’t go to the facility. It was like this guy was like my best friend in the world. We started that thing up and a year later he passes away, so I was lost,” Hayes said. “I had talked to my wife about just closing the facility down, because him passing away put a lot on my plate. But she told me that him passing away, because he talked me into doing it was the reason I should keep it open. Ten years later, here we are.”

Hayes said that the motto for the academy is ‘We leave no kids behind.’ He said that they help anyone who shows up, no matter what their talent level is.

Hayes said that one of the biggest things they like to teach the kids is how important practice is, and that you will play like you practice.

He said that they’ve had around 50 kids play at the college level, and have had some get drafted in the Major League Baseball draft.

One of those kids is Hayes’ son Ke’Bryan, who was selected with 32nd overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes helps Aden Bischoff, 6, of Strasburg, with his batting stance during camp for kids with the Strasburg Express on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hayes said he’s very proud of his son, and the biggest advice he’s given him is to simply have fun.

“When you get your body in shape, your mind’s going to be in shape and we talk about that a lot,” Hayes said. “Having fun. Baseball’s a very tough game. Three out of 10 and they’ll put a statue outside a building for you. That doesn’t happen in anything else in life. … That’s a thing we stress a lot about, is when I get knocked down the most important thing is to get up and not lay there. He’s bought into it. I tell him all the time when you compete against others, you become bitter. When you compete against yourself, you become better.”

Hayes said that several former Major League players including Jesse Barfield help out at his academy, and current Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton worked out there some earlier this year.

During his 15-year career, Hayes played for eight different teams. He finished with a career batting average of .262, and had 144 home runs and 740 RBIs.

The highlight of his career came in 1996. After being traded to the New York Yankees in August of ’96 he helped lead the Yankees to a World Series title, and caught the last out of the World Series.

He said he was recently at an Old-Timers’ Day in New York, and it’s still an amazing feeling to know that he was part of a championship team.

“As a kid you dream about playing Major League Baseball. Then your next dream is to win the World Series. Then your next dream is to be on the Yankees and all that happened for me, so it was kind of surreal,” Hayes said. “Just knowing where I came from, 81 kids in my high school graduation class. Crying when we get rained out, when we didn’t have practice.

“And then all of the sudden I’m playing for one of the most historic organizations in organized sports and to actually win a World Series with that team, it’s been a dream come true for me.”

Hayes said that as much as he enjoys the Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium, he loves helping others at his academy and doing clinics for the Strasburg Express just as much. He said he hopes to keep in touch with the Express players and would love to help them out in any way he can.

“I’m going to have some relationships with the kids here and just let them know that I’m available and don’t be afraid to reach out,” Hayes said. “That’s basically what I was here to do.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com