Hayes backtracks to Post 45, carves new path

Braylen Hayes takes a swing for Randolph County Post 45 this summer. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

ASHEBORO – Braylen Hayes didn’t anticipate being back with Randolph County Post 45 this summer, but he’s glad that opportunity existed.

It’s turning out to be a good thing for Post 45 despite his unexpected availability.

The former standout outfielder for Randleman didn’t make it to the finish line in his first college season at UNC Greensboro.

“Just having too much fun in college. It went downhill and ended up not having the best grades,” Hayes said. “It was all on me. It’s good, though, I’m going to get back right.

Braylen Hayes will play next year for Guilford Tech. (Bob Sutton/Randolph Record)

Hayes is the center fielder and bats third in the lineup for Post 45, which will be the host team for the American Legion’s Southeast Regional next week at McCrary Park.

So this is a summer to regroup for Hayes, who has committed to attend Guilford Tech and play a season with that junior college team.

He was lined up to play for the Asheboro ZooKeepers, a summer college team in the Coastal Plain League. But when grades interfered and he dropped off the UNCG roster, he wasn’t eligible for that because he wasn’t in a college program.

“It was pretty hard,” Hayes said. “It was just weird. I had never had to go through anything like that. Had to figure out.”

And he needed a summer baseball destination.

“Would have had a crap summer, no baseball would be rough,” he said.

Fortunately for him, he’s young enough – just turning 19 – for another season of American Legion baseball. He also played for Post 45 last year.

Post 45 manager Ronnie Pugh said Hayes is a big part of the team.

“We know the things he can do,” Pugh said.

Hayes said he’s a much better player than last summer.

“Making more contact on balls, hard contact,” he said. “Knowing the strike zone a lot better from seeing pitching at the D-I level.”

Things didn’t go as Hayes planned at UNCG.

“I didn’t play the best in the fall. I was struggling a little bit,” he said. “Going from seeing alright arms, to really good arms really fast. It was just a huge jump. At the time, I wasn’t ready for it.”

When the 2023 season began, he was a reserve, gaining more playing time a few weeks into the season. Hayes batted .250 in nine games, including three starts. He was 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts.

Yet his time with the Spartans didn’t go for naught. That has been evident with Hayes’ throws from the outfield.

“UNCG, they’ve got a great throwing program,” he said. “My arm has gotten so much stronger.”

Hayes was on three high school state championship teams – one at Uwharrrie Charter Academy and two at Randleman. In 2022, he shared Player of the Year honors in the Piedmont Athletic Conference with teammate future Boston Red Sox draft pick Brooks Brannon.

Now Hayes wants to turn the detour into something good after the Guilford Tech season.

“Go to a bigger D-I, hopefully,” he said.

By Bob Sutton