Hayes inspires Baseball World campers
Von Hayes was a hit with the Baseball World campers and instructors on Friday. A retired Major League Baseball (MLB) player who had a 12-year career and current manager of the Camden River Sharks of the Atlantic League, Hayes was Baseball World's guest instructor at Wakeman Field and was inspirational in teaching the campers about hitting, fielding and teamwork.
"He was very comfortable coming in here and teaching the fundamentals and I thought he was outstanding," Baseball World owner Vince Diaco said. "We give our guest instructors a copy of the curriculum beforehand and ask them to teach one thing in the curriculum. He went the extra mile and taught hitting and defense. He knew what he wanted to teach and had an agenda of what he wanted to cover."
Hayes made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1981 and finished his career with the California Angels in 1992. He spent the bulk of his career, from 1983-91 with the Philadelphia Phillies and represented them in the 1989 All-Star game.
Overall, Hayes had a career batting average of .267 with 143 home runs and 696 RBI. His best year was 1986 when he had two career-highs, a .305 average and 98 RBI to go with 19 home runs, his third best in his career. He had his most powerful year in 1989 with 26 home runs and added 21 dingers in 1987. In addition, he wasn't shabby running the bases with 253 stolen bases, including a career-high 48 in 1984.
Being the solid hitter he was, he talked about the importance of plate coverage and having the proper batting stance. Hayes told the campers if a batter has two strikes, he should not swing hard but focus on making contact. He also stressed the importance of teamwork and that teammates and friends should always be there to pick each other up emotionally.
When it came to infield fielding, he emphasized the importance of being versatile and said he wouldn't have made it to the majors as quickly if he wasn't resourceful.
Originally, he was a third baseman but because Toby Harrah played at third when the Indians called him up, he became an outfielder. He cited Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripkin as an example. Ripkin played in 2,632 straight games and the backup shortstop would never see the field if he didn't learn another position.
The first step of being an effective infielder is the ability to catch and throw. Whether he played at first base or third base, Hayes, a righty, would have his left foot behind his right foot with his heels to the ground and watch the pitcher and batter. Once he'd get to the ball, he'd gather the ball to his belt and transition it from his glove to his hand.
In fielding from the outfield, he said it's necessary to be able to anticipate the ball and to get in the habit of catching with two hands and to catch it above your shoulders. While making a long throw, the outfielder needs to transition downward and a righty thrower should put his left foot forward. Conversely, a lefty thrower needs to put his right foot forward.
"Von Hayes is a great communicator," Baseball World instructor Dave "Big Daddy" Rogers said. "Good communication skills are important when managing ballplayers and he's able to stay competitive when his playing days are over. Two minutes of instruction on the field from him proved there's no question he's a pro. It was a pleasure meeting him."
Hayes said when he was first inserted in left field against the Angels, he was shaking in his boots because he never practiced outfield play before and knew it would be tough facing batters like Reggie Jackson. He said because of his experience, it's good for future players to learn how to play both in the infield and outfield.
"Obviously, it's hard to grab their attention span," Hayes said. "I hope they take things and absorb it down the road. There's so much fundamentals to learn in two hours."
Before taking over the River Sharks, he managed the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League for two years. He also managed AA Midland, an Oakland A's affiliate, and single A South Bend, an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate.
Overall, he was impressed with the kids.
"The largest thing that stood out was how polite they were," Hayes said. "They were attentive and thankful and their behavior was off the charts. The main thing is you can't build Rome in a day. Hopefully, they'll become better players. Their efforts were outstanding and I want my players to watch their efforts."
The campers, in turn, enjoyed their time with Hayes.
"It was very interesting to hear what an all-time baseball player had to say in how he played with Reggie Jackson and other big-time stars," Jesse Field, an eighth grader at Weston Middle School, said. "He really knew what he was talking about."
Bedford Middle School student and Westport resident Phil McGovern said, "I thought he was a great instructor because he went over things and didn't blow by us. I learned you have to be ready for what baseball has to offer."