Love, respect spawn Todd Hayes Memorial Pavilion

GLEN DALE — Todd Hayes was a special baseball player as well as a special individual. Both points were hammered home last Saturday night at an emotional celebration.

Hayes was one of the greatest players ever to wear a John Marshall baseball uniform. He was a driving force in the Monarchs’ 1985 state championship season, a season in which he was also named captain of the West Virginia Class AAA all-state baseball team.

Fate served up Hayes a cruel pitch, however, in the form of brain cancer. The Glen Dale native battled the deadly disease like he did opposing pitchers — with courage, confidence and class. Sadly, the diamond gem lost his fight with cancer in 2013.

His death gave life to the Todd Hayes Memorial Committee. The organization was created by Hayes’ friends and classmates — Dr. Mike Maroney, Dr. Mike Wayt, Michael Myers, Paul Smith and Eric Anderson.

The passionate panel’s purpose was to establish a lasting tribute to the former Monarch star. That task, born out of love and respect, became reality Saturday, July 29 when the Todd Hayes Memorial Pavilion was unveiled at the John Marshall High baseball field.

It is situated on the third base side and features seats from Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Amazingly, the committee raised $46,000 in just five months for the project without holding any fundraisers. Impressively and generously, some 180 donors stepped to the plate on their own volition. That speaks volumes about the character, talent and integrity Hayes exhibited.

The festivities, attended by some 150, were forced inside to St. Jude Hall, just blocks away, due to the heavy rains and subsequent flooding the previous night. The monsoons washed away the benches that were situated in the Hayes Pavilion.

Legendary JM baseball coach Bob Montgomery, who recently resigned the post after nearly 900 wins, vowed that the benches would be located. He was also one of the featured speakers at the festivities.

“I can feel Todd’s presence with us here tonight. Todd has always been with us here in spirit, especially today. Todd was a soft spoken and kind young man,” Montgomery said. “He was obviously a great baseball player who never took three strikes like (Starling) Marte did last night.

“Next year I plan on umpiring again. But it will be nice that I can have a sandwich and drink at the Todd Hayes Pavilion,” the coaching legend added. “Todd will always be remembered. We will never forget him.”

Myers is also one of the greatest baseball players in JM annals. He was a lifelong friend of Hayes. The two always played on the same team growing up until college when Myers starred for the University of Charleston and Hayes performed at Marshall.

Myers, now a Charleston-based attorney, delivered the speech of the night, one of the most riveting and passionate I have ever been privy to during my newspaper days. He moved the crowd to both laughter and tears, while leaving them with the ultimate respect for Hayes.

“Todd was like Babe Ruth. He was heads and shoulders above the rest of us. He always played happy,” Myers said. “During the 1985 season he played like a man possessed. At our sports banquet prior to the state tournament Todd got up and told the audience that we will win the state title. We rode his ability and leadership to the state championship.

“Todd Hayes, the player and the man he became, deserves the pavilion. Todd didn’t let cancer beat him,” he added. “I also have a few things that Todd believed in — Enjoy life, be humble, be nice and don’t let things bother you.”

Myers also read a letter Todd penned years ago on what it was like playing baseball at John Marshall. Hayes’ sister, Debbie Lett, and Marcia (Hayes) Sorge, Todd’s widow, also delivered eloquent remarks.

John Marshall baseball players Kyle Reilly and Brandon Gonchoff received $1,500 scholarships during the dinner.

Pirates Charities and 84 Lumber were $5K platinum donors for the pavilion project.

POST 1 THREE-PEAT

WINNING A state championship is a noteworthy achievement. Pulling that fete off three successive seasons is truly remarkable.

Such is the case of the Wheeling Post 1 American Legion baseball team. Mark Delbrugge has fueled Post 1’s return to prominence since he took over field manager duties four years ago.

Obviously, the Wheeling-based team has talent. Most, if not all, American Legion squads do.

But the Post 1 success goes beyond just players. The leadership from top to bottom is proactive, passionate and on the same page. The Post 1 braintrust is committed to excellence on and off the field.

The result: three successive state championships and counting.

HUNDRED NEEDS HELP

THE RECENT flooding wreaked havoc with at least one OVAC football program. The heavy rains took its toll on Hundred High. The Hornets lost nearly almost everything football-related except for helmets.

Uniforms, pads and shoes were either washed away or left in unusable condition. The Hornet gridders are in need of much help, and quickly.

Charles “Chippy-Wild” Goff is helping flood relief efforts in Hundred. He may be reached at 304-365-9700. Moreover, a shelter has been set up at the high school and is open 24 hours a day.

Some private donors have already made some monetary donations. However, much more is needed. I urge any school with some excess football gear please step up and help a program in turmoil. Businesses, organizations or individuals can help with monetary donations.

Compounding matters is the fact many Hundred players are missing practice to help clean and restore their own homes. The Ohio Valley is famous for rallying around people in need. The Hundred Hornets definitely need our help.

BUBBA’S BITS

PLAYING TIME should be much more plentiful for Jensen Caretti this season with the Ohio State women’s basketball team. The River High product is the lone remaining member of her recruiting class. The sophomore guard is just one of 10 players left with the Lady Buckeyes’ program.

THE FIFTH Annual Bill Stewart Memorial Golf Tournament will be held at Sistersville Country Club on Saturday, Aug. 12 with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. The format will be a four-person scramble at $220 per team which includes cart, mulligans, skins game, awards, door prizes and a tailgate party. Proceeds will support organizations, scholarships and programs that demonstrate Bill’s love for sports and his dedication in the development of a positive character in young adults. For information, call Dennis Balcerek at 304-455-4281 or Ron Casto at 304-337-8474.

THE FINAL major golf tournament of the season plays out this week at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. I would love to see Jordan Spieth complete the career grand slam. I doubt that will happen. My pick is Dustin Johnson. He appears to be rounding back into championship form.

FOOTBALL DOOMSAYERS take note — the gridiron sport is growing, at least on the collegiate level. Four new college football teams are taking the field this year, bringing the total to 777, an all-time high. That number includes all divisions in the NCAA, NAIA and independents. The four new football-playing schools are Dean College in Franklin, Mass.; St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C.; Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Wheeling Jesuit University will join that list in 2018.

YOU HAVE to feel somewhat mournful for Bellaire High head football coach Mark Spigarelli and his Big Reds. They are forced to practice at the Irish Youth field across town while its $2M fieldhouse sits idle. The project began late last fall but no completion date is on the radar.

COMMENTS