Ke'Bryan Hayes was destined to be a Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ever since Hayes was the top draft pick of the Pirates in the spring of 2015, the kid from Texas was ticketed as a defensive wiz.  Fast forward to the 2020 MLB COVID-19 pandemic shortened season, 24 of the 60 games scheduled for Pittsburgh had Hayes in their lineup. While making his debut that season for the National League Central Division club, it was clear early on, Hayes was going to flash some leather at his third base position for many years to follow.

Already, heading into his fifth season with the Pirates as they prepare to open their regular season in Miami against the Marlins on March 28th, perhaps quicker than most assumed, Hayes has taken over as the number one defender at his position in the National League.

Chicago White Sox v Pittsburgh Pirates
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 16: The Pittsburgh Pirates supplemental first round draft pick, Ke'Bryan Hayes (32nd overall) watches batting practice prior to the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago White Sox at PNC Park on June 16, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

You don't have to look any further for validation than to last November's announcement of the Gold Glove Award winners.  Previously, for ten seasons consecutively, beginning in 2013, Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals collected the prize as the National League's best defensive third baseman.

So dominant, so fast, Hayes has worked hard at his craft. But, it also seems that the popular Pirate has baseball destiny on his side, at his infield position.

Charlie Hayes
5 Apr 1997: Infielder Charlie Hayes of the New York Yankees dives for the ball during a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Alameda County Stadium in Oakland, California. The Athletics won the game 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Al

Hayes is a second generation ballplayer.  Dad, Charlie Hayes logged 14 MLB seasons between 1988 and 2001.  Of the seven different clubs he patrolled third base for, Charlie wore the uniforms of the Pirates and New York Yankees. Now, given that dad and son have Pittsburgh baseball  history, that in itself adds interest to their career paths, playing the same position is even more intriguing.  Plus, add in Charlie being dealt to New York on August 30th during the 1996 season, and the Hayes family has more than enough stories to tell their children and grandchildren.

Charlie Hayes made it as a Yankee at the right time.

After a 15-year championship drought, The Yankees won the World Series championship. It was Charlie who caught the final out, at Yankee Stadium in Game 6, a foul ball hit by Utican Mark Lemke, to seal the deal in the Bronx.

With Ke'Bryan not being born until January 1997, he didn't see his dad jump for baseball joy at the end of Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, but he was there - sort of.

"My mom was pregnant with me at the time," Hayes said inside the Pirates' clubhouse prior to a spring training game in Bradenton, Florida. "I was seven or eight-years-old when I started understanding  what my dad had done for a living.  It didn't register with me until a couple years later why people would ask my dad for his autograph."

It's clear when reviewing his father's baseball accomplishments (1,547 games and 1,379 hits), Ke'Bryan understands how difficult it was to reach these numbers. But, they are among the signs that Hayes wants to reach, and surpass.

World Series
24 Oct 1996: Charlie Hayes of the New York Yankees celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Atlanta Braves during Game Five of the World Series at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The Yankees won the game, 1-0.

"Dad still has the ball from that last out. I look at that and his World Series ring, they motivate me to want to earn my own," says Hayes, who nine games into the Pirates' Grapefruit League schedule has nine hits, including three home runs.  "Baseball is a small world. I'm able to wear the same number as dad wore (13) during his career, and for the same team.

As much as Hayes praises his father's accolades, he is every bit modest of his steady progression with the Pirates.  Topping his 2023 season batting average of .273 and 15 home runs output is very much in play for the 2024 slate.  He is a leader without a pulpit.  At 27-years-old, Hayes is serious about leading by example.

"Adam Frazier (Pirates' teammate during the 2020 & 2021 seasons) led by example. When I signed with the Pirates and worked my way up through  A-ball to Triple-A, I saw Starling Marte as a role model, and obviously, Cutch (Pirates' Andrew McCutchen). They taught me in big league camp how to manage my body,"

Hayes is developing well in the Pirates' organization. He talks of getting more "simple in the box", when discussing his hitting.  Being relaxed, and sitting on the ball, and not having to think too much when staring down at a pitcher, this is all in Hayes' mix to put bat on ball more frequently in the upcoming 162-game schedule.

With two weeks to go before Opening Day, Hayes concedes that good teams will have a skid or two during the season but they also are able to flip it.  Ever the optimist, and with good reason, being a nucleus of many on such a young and energetic Pirates team, it's not a stretch to predict a second straight Gold Glove Award is on Hayes' horizon in 2024.

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at Don can be contacted via email at 

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