Baltimore Orioles: Watch Austin Hays Make The Play Of The Year
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Austin Hays made the play of the year on Thursday night.
Why am I still watching Baltimore Orioles baseball in late-September as this team finds any way possible to avoid 50 wins on the season? Austin Hays is a major reason why and on Thursday night he showed off why everyone should be paying attention to him.
In the top of the fourth inning, Hays put in his nomination for play of the year with a home run robbing grab of Toronto Blue Jays rookie sensation Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a celebration that injected pure joy and excitement into a fan base which has been counting down the days until the end of the season for a long while now.
Orioles starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa cruised through the first three innings on Thursday night’s contest, but any good Orioles fan knows that it’s later in games when things get real interesting. Bo Bichette led off the fourth inning with a groundout to Hanser Alberto at second base. Then, the wheels came off.
Cavan Biggio launched his 15th home run of the season into center field, followed by home run number 20 for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a 404-foot shot sent out of the park at 103.7 mph. It appeared that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had gotten all of his own home run to give Toronto back-to-back-to-back jacks off Ynoa, until Austin Hays decided he had seen enough.
Even after watching this play 100 times, I’m still amazed. The play certainly caught the attention of the voice of the Orioles, Gary Thorne. Thorne has had a number of calls go viral this year, like when he has to call yet another Gleyber Torres home run or when Orioles defenders drop routine pop-flys in foul territory.
But it was his call after this stunning catch that may continue to ring true as the Orioles head into the offseason. “Oriole fans, there is your center fielder of the future!”
Injuries have forced Hays to miss significant time since making his major league debut in 2017, but he’s been healthy since July and has worked diligently to bring back that excitement that surrounded the former third-round pick of the 2016 MLB draft.
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As expected, the bat has been a bit slower in coming around since his early-season injuries this year, but he did hit .254 in 59 games with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, including 27 extra-base hits. It wasn’t the bat that impressed the most while in Norfolk, but his glove. If you had the opportunity to watch any Tides games late in the season, odds are you saw Hays make a tremendous defensive play in center field or unleash a rocket from one of the corner outfield spots to prevent a run. He was starting to look a lot like the Austin Hays of 2017.
He wasn’t supposed to be up in the big leagues this year, instead spending his offseason in the Arizona Fall League to continue getting reps before closing the book on 2019. With an earlier start date to the AFL season, players were allowed to continue playing with their ballclubs before reporting to Arizona after the regular season, meaning Hays got his deserved call. Since his call-up, Hays is hitting .345 with one home run, four doubles, four walks, and four RBI in 12 games.
Oh yeah, he did this later in the game.
We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we agree with Gary Thorne. After watching the struggles of Cedric Mullins, the disaster that was Keon Broxton, and the likes of Stevie Wilkerson and Anthony Santander (love ya, Tony, but only in a corner spot) try and man center field, it’s hard not to get pretty amped about Austin Hays beginning 2020 as the center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.
Our hats off to you, Austin Hays. Welcome back.