Ke’Bryan Hayes knows how to make a debut.
The 24-year-old third baseman made his first Opening Day start one to remember; blasting a 410 foot shot off of Kyle Hendricks to give his Pittsburgh Pirates a 2-0 lead in a 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl said. “That guy hits everything hard. He’s just an unbelievable player. Really happy for him to start the season this way.”
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) April 2, 2021
One of the favorites for NL Rookie of the Year honors, Hayes also joined a pretty exclusive club for the Black and Yellow.
Pirates rookies to homer on Opening Day:
2021 Ke'Bryan Hayes
1982 Johnny Ray
That's it. That's the list.
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 1, 2021
Hayes has been killing the baseball throughout his rise to the Bigs and has been an impactful Black Knight ever since his September 1 call up in 2020.
In case you don’t know, or don’t remember, Ke’Bryan went deep in his first game with the Pirates. Coincidentally, that blast was also against the Cubs and also traveled well over 400 feet. He went 2-for-5 that night with a double, driving in two, and scoring three runs while playing immaculate defense in a tough, 8-7 loss in extra innings.
The first home run of Ke’Bryan Hayes’ Major League career. Ties the game at 6-6.
You can see him soak it in as he rounds third. That smile is the product of a lifetime of work. pic.twitter.com/CXYTBTxIsj
— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) September 2, 2020
“That was unbelievable. It was outstanding,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said that night. “He did things well in all three facets of the game.”
Ke’ Boogie is just the fourth Pittsburgh Pirate since 1901, and the first since 1922 to pick up multiple extra-base hits in his debut, and just the seventh Pirates player to go yard in his first game.
The son of former 14-year MLB world champion, Charlie Hayes, finished last season as a top-ten prospect in multiple publications after hitting an eye-opening .376; collecting 32 hits in just 24 games.
Twelve of those went for extra bases, including five homers. In fact, Hayes led all Pirates who played in at least 20 games in batting average, on base percentage, slugging and OPS.
The power and the eye were still there this Spring Training, with 10 extra-base knocks in 51 at-bats, and a healthy .431 average.
He had checked off every possible box on his way to this moment. Hayes was nearly a .300 hitter during his minor league career. After struggling to generate a lot of pop early on, Ke’Bryan has grown into a solid 5’10”, 205-pounder who still has room to build onto his frame.
It’s a huge responsibility to be the face of a franchise that has seen the likes of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Barry Bonds, and Andrew McCutchen carry the mantle in years past.
But Pirates don’t show fear, they create it. Opposing pitchers will go to sleep each worrying if they’ll be the next to be raided by the young man wearing number 13, and standing menacingly at the plate.