By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
PIEDMONT – Jack Hayes and Max Hanson have played baseball together since they were about four years old. From little league to high school, they’ve played on just about every baseball field Piedmont has to offer.
They’ll have one more together this baseball season, and now, they’ll have at least two more together in junior college. Both signed with Snead State on Thursday in the Piedmont High School Gym.
Hayes did a little bit of everything for the Class 3A state runner-up Bulldogs (36-7) last season. He pitched, caught, and played on both corners of the infield. He went 8-0 on the mound, including game one of the state championship series against Trinity, with a 1.08 ERA and 49 strikeouts.
At the plate, Hayes batted .472 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs, 26 walks, 11 hit by pitches, six stolen bases, 28 runs and 64 RBIs – all numbers that made him the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 3A Baseball Player of the Year.
Hanson, a first-team all-state outfielder, had a .376 batting average with 11 doubles, two triples, 11 stolen bases, 17 walks, 52 runs and 41 RBIs.
The duo will be leaving a baseball program full of success and heading to one that’s coming off recent success. The Parsons went 42-16 last season and earned a berth in the NJCAA D-I Baseball World Series.
“I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us,” Hanson said. “That’s really all we’ve known (winning), and that’s also another reason why we chose Snead. Last year, they won the JUCO state tournament, so that’s a big thing to us.”
“It’s a cool experience getting to spend the next two years with him, and just continue doing what we’ve been doing for the past 14, 15 years playing together,” Hayes said.
Hayes, who set numerous Alabama High School Athletic Association football offensive records last year, said he received some attention in football at the next level, but “it wasn’t anything like baseball.”
“I think I had the best chance to go to take my game to another level in baseball than I do in football,” he said. “I don’t think I’d ever get a fair chance (in football). In baseball, you don’t really need the height to be good. They (Snead) said they really think I can help them this upcoming year, get on the field a good bit. They told me if I hit they way I have been hitting, I’ll play all year. They really haven’t said where (he’d be playing position-wise), but I don’t think I’ll really be catching much more. They really haven’t specified what I’d be playing.”
Hanson calls Snead “a perfect match” for him and Hayes.
“Jack went on a visit before me, but I knew when I went on a visit I was going to commit as soon as they gave me an offer,” Hanson said. “They did (make an offer), and then I told Jack. It was like a week later he committed.
“Snead is kind of like Piedmont. It’s a small town with a small-town feel. Everyone there is for the team. It’s not like whose stats are good. It’s all about winning and that’s a big thing with us. We love to win.”
The duo may love to win, but Piedmont head coach Matt Deerman said it’s the character both players portray that’s more important than anything.
“They’re not just baseball guys,” Deerman said. “Max Hanson is the epitome of what you want a kid to be at Piedmont. He’s hard nosed and you get every ounce of ability out of him. Everybody around the state knows who Jack Hayes is for his competitiveness and his will to win. It’s two very special young men.
“Words can’t really describe what these two guys have done for us in everything, but people from the outside don’t realize these two guys are great kids and great academically. They’re at the top of their class academically. They do the right things. It’s good representation for our program moving forward. It always helps us in the future when we have guys like that go on and do things the right way.”
While Deerman is going to miss their presence next year, he’s going to cherish one last ride this upcoming baseball season with them.
“Just having the opportunity to watch them grow into the great kids they are has been a special ride, but their high school career is not over yet,” he said. “They still have one last run at it. Hopefully it will be a good one.”