PRC alum Hayden Dunhurst living the dream after being drafted by Royals out of Ole Miss
Two of the biggest moments in a college baseball player’s life that most can only dream of is winning the College World Series in Omaha and hearing their name called in the MLB First Year Player Draft.
Today, Pearl River Central alum Hayden Dunhurst leaving for Kansas City after experiencing both in less than a month for the Ole Miss Rebels.
“After winning it, I kind of blacked out for a while. We went into our dog pile and I was at the bottom of it. I definitely remember that part. It was some of the most excruciating pain I’ve been in. But it just felt really cool to make other people feel proud of us. It really made my heart feel good.”
As a catcher, being the first dog in the pile is just part of the territory, but Hayden Dunhurst seems to find himself at the bottom more than most, not only catching the final out of the first-ever baseball national championship at Ole Miss in 2022, but also the first-ever state title at Pearl River Central in 2017. “Winning the first-ever championship in high school and then winning our first-ever national championship, both being from Mississippi kind of feels really cool. Hopefully that’s something I can look back on one day. But it’s going to be a blessing, man.”
“(So, the only thing left is a World Series then, right?) Absolutely. Let’s get the third one, huh?”
Perhaps the unsung hero of the Rebels’ run to immortality, Dunhurst was the primary backstop for a red-hot pitching staff that allowed just 25 runs in 11 NCAA Tournament games.
The former Blue Devil also sniped 39 percent of base stealers during his time in Oxford to go along with 18 career home runs.
Less than three weeks after winning the College World Series, the Kansas City Royals drafted their catcher of the future in the sixth round with the 175th overall selection. “I saw Derek Diamond got picked a couple picks before me, so I had just taken a video of him, and I had just sat my phone down and then I heard my name get called, and I was right beside my dad and my mom and a couple of my friends, and we just celebrated. We hugged. We jumped up and down together, and just said it’s time to go to work now.”
The kid from Carriere has never been to a Royals game, but as fate would have it, Kauffman Stadium just so happens to be the first-ever big league park his dad went to as a kid.
That memory getting passed down to Dunhurst, who grew up with a painting of that very field in his room. “Definitely different. I never thought about it right off the bat, and then my mom had shown me pictures of my baby doors and stuff around there with the paintings and everything and my Granny being from there, so it was kind of emotional for me a little bit to get to that point.”
Dunhurst already showing off the tools in rookie ball with a .429 batting average and a pair of doubles across three games.
Next stop after K.C. is Arizona for minor league spring training where the rest of his life begins and dreams become reality. “Honestly, coming off the national championship, it honestly still feels like it hasn’t hit you sometimes, going from national championship to getting drafted is two of the biggest things a kid – that I’ve dreamed of since I was four years old – has ever done, so it doesn’t feel real that I’ve done it, but it feels awesome.”
Royals Catcher Salvador Perez is just one year removed from hitting 48 home runs, the most-ever by a catcher in a single season. Dunhurst says he looks forward to pick his brain.