Southern Miss alum Hayden Roberts now calling pitches at Pascagoula

When the Major League Baseball first year-player draft was still 40 rounds long, guys like Southern Miss alum Hayden Roberts still got the chance to live out their dream, in his case, as a Draft Day selection of the Colorado Rockies.

Four years later, Roberts says it was that dream that paved the way for a new dream which is the one he’s living now as a pitching coach at Pascagoula High School.

It’s been a while since Hayden Roberts got a standing ovation, like the one he received on Championship Sunday in 2016 and he’s okay with that. “I thought that once we started playing that I would get the itch to want to play again. But I’m happy to say I don’t. I don’t want to play anymore. I want to teach the guys that they may be able to get the same opportunity that I was given.”

From Alma Bryant High School in Irvington, Alabama to overcoming Tommy John Surgery at then Alabama Southern Community College to drawing the 2017 Opening Day start at Southern Miss, Roberts made good on opportunities at every level.

A week after USM hosted its first NCAA Regional in 14 years, Roberts heard his name called. “It’s definitely a dream come true. I get chills still talking about it. I mean hearing my name, 34th round, I don’t care. I mean I’m a professional baseball player.”

But after spending three seasons in the Rockies organization, Roberts topped out with the High-A Lancaster Jet Hawks before his eventual release in 2019. “There at the end I figured out it was kind of time for me to get out of the playing. I knew I still wanted to be in the game. But as far as the playing days I figured I’d had enough. I always say you take pre-workout at 7 o’clock at night to get ready for the seventh, eighth inning at nine o’clock.”

With a better sleep schedule in mind, Roberts figured the best way to scratch his baseball itch was through coaching.

Enter Pascagoula alum and former USM teammate Tracy Hadley, the middle ground between Roberts and Head Coach Richie Tillman, who hired Roberts back in September, eight years after the slider-heavy right-hander helped the Panthers win the 5A State championship in some weird, convoluted way. “Actually in 2012, the year we won the state championship, we went over and played them I believe in Robertsdale, and he pitched extremely well and beat us. That might’ve woken our team up and we played a little bit better after that.”

“My favorite part, knowing that I had to start that night or knowing that I was on the docket to pitch was that I had some kind of control over the game, and the exact opposite is here with coaching.”

Roberts say he at least gets to call the game from the dugout, pulling double duty as both the varsity pitching coach and the middle school head coach. “I always say the main thing that translates from Minor League ball to pretty much any kind of baseball is passion. If you’ve got passion for it, especially in the Minor Leagues, you play 144 games, and you have to love the game in order to get up and play it every single day. Cause that’s your job at that point. And kind of take that to coaching because every single day you get up and that’s your mindset is baseball and you come out here and try to help these guys to be fortunate enough to get what I was given.”

Certainly, relatable to a rising star like Keilon Parnell, who is already committed to Mississippi State as a sophomore.

As things continue to come full circle for the former Golden Eagle, it’s entirely possible he was born to not only play the game he loves, but coach it too. “Well, he has the right intensity and the right calmness, the ability to relate to players. He just has the ‘it’ factor, I think.”

“Baseball will afford you so many opportunities even after you get done playing, like this right here. I’m the pitching coach at Pascagoula, so I mean if I don’t get that chance, you never know what comes after that. I think I plan to do this for a good while.”

 

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