After defending countless foul balls off her body and bending her knees constantly, Hayes now has the opportunity to continue playing the position she desires.
Hayes signed a softball scholarship with Snead State Community College on Tuesday at the Sand Rock High School gym. She said she never dreamed all the punishment she’s taken behind the plate would result in the continuation of her softball career.
“I’ve had to work really hard to get to where I am now, and it’s paid off,” Hayes said. “I get to celebrate by signing a softball scholarship, so I’m pretty pumped up about it.
“When I first started, I could hardly catch, but me and daddy (Keith Hayes) worked hard on it. I played on a travel softball team for a long time, and it’s just gotten me to where I am now. It seems unimaginable, but here I am.”
Last season, Hayes batted .278 with six doubles, 12 walks and drove in 10 runs to lead Sand Rock (28-13) to the North Regional Tournament in Huntsville.
In 122 career games, Hayes has 298 at-bats with 99 hits and a .343 batting average. She has 30 doubles, 11 triples, 39 walks and 42 stolen bases. Hayes has also scored 64 runs and driven in 40 more.
Sand Rock coach Josh Bates said Hayes has “made lots of strides” since her eighth grade season.
“I’ve literally watched her grow up,” Bates said. “I’m proud for her. She’s getting the opportunity to move on to the next level, and I think she’ll contribute at Snead. I think she’ll be a great player for them. She’s always done a good job for us. She works really hard. She’s worked a lot on her own, had other people helping her doing things throughout the summer to make herself better. I know her dad has been behind her 100 percent working with her and getting her to where she could do this and move on to the next level.
“It takes somebody with a lot of guts to get behind that plate. We basically call our catcher the general. They’ve got to control the game. They’ve got to be the one to go out and settle the team down, and make them laugh when they need to. She’s been a great leader for us behind the plate. She does an outstanding job filling that role for us.”
Snead State coach Lisa Bright is hoping Hayes will continue to be that kind of player for the Parsons.
“She has great catching abilities,” Bright said. “She actually played on our summer team this past summer with some of the other girls who are coming in this year, and she’s just done a great job all the way around. She meshed really well with the team, and that is really big for me – good attitudes and hard work.
“She’s going to have every chance to earn a starting position as a freshman. She’ll see time at catcher, and maybe some at second (base) and the outfield too. Wherever we need her will be where she’ll go.”