Former big leaguer Hayes named new Express manager

Former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes will be the coach the Strasburg Express baseball team this summer. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Strasburg Express faced the challenge of finding a replacement for 2015 Valley Baseball League Manager of the Year recipient Stephanos Stroop, but in the end finding a new coach wasn’t so tough for team president Jay Neal.

The Express announced Thursday that former Major League Baseball player Charlie Hayes will serve as the team’s head coach for the 2016 season. Hayes served as Strasburg’s director of scouting this past summer while helping the Express establish a nationwide scouting network. Strasburg won its first Valley League championship in August.

Neal said Friday that the Express advertised the coaching position through the American Baseball Coaches Association and received at least 40 applications, but when Strasburg Director of Player Development Duke Dickerson informed Neal that Hayes was interested in the job, Neal knew he had found his man.

“To have someone of his stature is impressive to say the least,” Neal said. “And Charlie was here last summer for a week or so and worked with a number of our players and they enjoyed him. Some of the players were kind of standoffish – the ones that actually worked with him absolutely loved it. His knowledge of baseball is amazing.”

Hayes played 14 professional seasons in the MLB for seven different teams from 1988 to 2001. A career .262 hitter who finished with 144 home runs and 740 RBIs, Hayes won a World Series championship with the Yankees in 1996 and caught the final out of that series to clinch the title.

Since retiring from baseball in 2001, Hayes opened the Charlie Hayes Big League Baseball Academy in Tomball, Texas, a nonprofit organization devoted to the academic and athletic development of players of various ages and skill levels.

Hayes made a trip to Strasburg back in June to spend five days with the Express, during which time he served as an assistant coach and held a hitting camp for local youth at First Bank Park.

Though Hayes’ time in Strasburg was brief, Neal said his impact was lasting. Former Express manager Butch Barnes, Dickerson and Strasburg’s 2015 coaching staff discussed baseball with Hayes over breakfast at Denny’s one morning over the summer, Neal said, an interaction that lasted four hours.

“Butch said that was one of the most amazing times of his life,” Neal recalled. “He said (they were) just sitting there talking baseball – nothing but baseball the whole time – and he said that man’s knowledge of baseball is just absolutely incredible.”

Neal called Strasburg’s new coaching situation a “win-win” for both Hayes and the Express. Hayes will have the opportunity next summer to be closer to his son, Ke’Bryan, who was a 2015 first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates and will play next season with the Class A West Virginia Power in Charleston.

Neal said he and Hayes have already reached an agreement where Hayes will be allowed to make several trips to Charleston during the summer to watch his son play baseball, during which time Barnes and Strasburg’s assistant coaches will resume the manager responsibilities for the Express.

“It works well for us and it’ll work for him,” Neal said. “He’ll get to watch his son play and won’t nearly have as far to go, and we get one heckuva great baseball teacher.”

The addition of Hayes as a full-time presence in the dugout this season adds yet another layer of depth to the level of scouting and player development that was introduced to the Express last season by Hayes and Dickerson, the latter of which also has vast connections to former MLB players, coaches and scouts.

“With those kind of contacts it just does a lot for our players. It gives them another outlet,” Neal said. “I’m tickled pink. I just think it’s good for the Valley League, it’s good for Strasburg.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com