Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman
Archer head baseball coach Chris Hays is in his second season at the Lawrenceville school and is also a Central Gwinnett graduate.
Chris Hays, 33, is the head baseball coach at second-year school Archer. Hays is a 1996 Central Gwinnett grad where he played football, basketball and baseball. Hays earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia in 2000 in social studies education and also played baseball for the Bulldogs.
Hays and his wife Angela have four children -- Madilyn, 8, Avery, 5, Reagan, 3 and Christopher, 10 months.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know ...," Hays talks to staff writer Brandon Brigman about building the Archer program, his best baseball pranks and how he met his high school sweetheart.
BB: It's the second year of Archer. What's it been like building this program from scratch?
CH: I knew it was going to require a lot of patience. I knew we would be young. That's pretty much been the case. It's a lot of trying to teach the basics of the game, fundamental type stuff. Also, just basic plays that occur in a game. A lot of kids didn't know how to handle. We had to start from the ground and build up. We're certainly still doing that. We've got a long way to go, but we are making strides and getting a little better each day.
BB: It probably doesn't help having Parkview, Brookwood and Grayson in your region does it?
CH: That's definitely tough. Last year we were in 8-AAA and that was a tough region with Oconee County. Certainly jumping into AAAAA with Parkview and Brookwood, who are always good, it's been an eye opener for the guys for sure.
BB: You played under legendary Central Gwinnett football coach Tally Johnson. How much of an influence was he on your career?
CH: A big influence. He's one of the reasons I wanted to coach. He's a football genius. He's a mastermind offensively and defensively. A lot of the ways I do things, and it's baseball not football. I model after Coach Johnson, Coach (Mark) Kimbro, Coach Sweat. I get some of the things I do from all the coaches I played for.
BB: You played quarterback in high school. So you must have been hot stuff on campus.
CH: Uh. (laughs) I don't know about that. I was the hand offer. My junior year we had Timmy Smith, who in my mind is the best running back ever in the state of Georgia. He was on track to break some Hershel (Walker's) records and stuff like that.
So my junior year I was literally the hand the ball off guy. I didn't pass much, but when I did pass everybody was flocked to Timmy so I had wide open people to throw to. My senior year Timmy wasn't playing, so I did have to pass a little more that year. I wouldn't say I was hot stuff or anything like that by any means.
BB: Did you play with Brent Tisdale, who is now the athletic director at Grayson?
CH: Oh, he was my center. He was a good center, too. He was a year older than me. My junior year, we had a great offensive line and he was in the middle there. He was an excellent center. Smart and could block well, so it was nice having him in front of me.
BB: What kind of baseball player were you at Georgia?
CH: Um, I was not an everyday starter, but I would get in from time to time. At different points in my career I was kind of platooning and other points I was the pinch hitter off the bench. I didn't break any records like that, but I got playing time. I hit a few home runs here and there.
BB: Any fond memories or big plays you had while at UGA?
CH: It wasn't necessarily a big play. I was in the bullpen. We were playing LSU my freshman year at home. We were getting beat and Coach Sapp said 'Hays, you're on deck.' So I sprint down there and the game is going on. I'm on deck and I take my chest protector off, take my shins off, take my helmet off and I grab a bat. I don't get to swing and it's my turn to hit. I get up in there and first pitch is a belt high fast ball and bam I hit one over the fence. That was kind of my glory day right there as a freshman. It wasn't a game winner or anything. I just ran in there, grabbed a bat and first pitch I hit left the yard.
BB: Was there any place you dreaded to play?
CH: Let's see here. South Carolina, their fans were pretty rowdy. That's something you're not prepared for in high school. You don't prepare for how brutal the fans are in college. They get real personal. They talk about your mom, your girlfriend, you gotta learn real quick to ignore it because if you look up or acknowledge them it's fuel on the fire. South Carolina was bad. They made fun of everything about you. Tennessee was bad. They would start spitting on you occasionally.
BB: What's the best baseball prank you pulled?
CH: Ooohhh, now I did pull a lot of those at Georgia. (laughs) Let's see here. The best one probably we found like a praying mantis or something and I put in the left fielders hat underneath the side and in the middle of the inning he started feeling it crawling on his head. He started flipping out in the middle of the game. That was a good one. I also found some creatures and I would stick insects in peoples gloves and things like that.
I lit a few people on fire. Athletic tape is very flammable, so I've done that. That's always fun to do.
BB: Are you excited about the Atlanta Braves season starting?
CH: I am. With four little kids I don't get much TV time for myself. I'm always pretty gung ho about it on opening day and the first month. I have not been out to see the Gwinnett Braves as much as I thought I would. I'm definitely a big Braves fan for sure.
BB: Who was your favorite player growing up?
CH: (No hesitation) Dale Murphy. Without a doubt.
BB: What did you like about him?
CH: I liked that he always dove. Whether he had to dive or not to catch the ball, his hat would always fall off and he hit bombs, too, so I liked that about him. Plus Atlanta was terrible back in the those days and he was the only one that was halfway decent.
BB: What did you do on spring break? Was it all baseball or did you get to have some fun, too?
CH: It was pretty much baseball. I try to balance out baseball and family time, especially during spring break. This time of year I don't get to see them as much as I would like to. We went to the zoo, took them fishing, so we tried to spend some family time around here doing some fun inexpensive things, of course.
BB: How did you meet your wife Angela?
CH: She went to Central, too. We met in high school. She actually sent a mutual friend of ours to talk to me about thinking about going out with her. Of course, I was very pumped up about it because I never though I would have a chance. I did a lot better than I was capable of. I asked her out at a JV football game. It took every ounce of courage even though I knew she would say yes for me to ask her out. Back then in the '90s in October it seemed like there was 50 haunted houses around. They were all over the place, so I think we went to like six haunted houses in a row on different weekends.
BB: You have four children and three are girls. Were you trying for a boy the whole time?
CH: Believe it or not, my wife wanted a boy a lot worse than I did. I was okay with the girls, I had accepted the fact. Obviously, a boy would have been nice. I was okay with two girls, then three girls, I was ready to stop. We've got our boy now, of course I'm ecstatic, but she's probably happier about having a boy than I was. Everyone always thinks it was me, but it was her.
BB: Does having three girls make you a softer guy?
CH: Uh, I'm pretty soft already. I don't know what it is about me, but I'm pretty good with daughters. But I think it has made me even softer.
BB: Are you dreading that first date?
CH: I'm dreading the first date. Seriously. I'm around guys, I'm around high school guys all the time and it's just ... yeah, I'm dreading it. In the event I'm still coaching, I've already started thinking what if one of my players was dating my daughter? I've got to have rules of no dating the coach's daughter and things like that. I'm definitely dreading that.
BB: It's your second year at Archer and the program is still new, but how long do you see yourself here?
CH: I don't know. I'd like to hang around to build the program, build the press box, get a hitting facility, get a locker room. Do I see myself coaching here until I retire, I don't know. I don't know if I'll coach until I retire.
I definitely want to lay a good foundation and get something started here for sure. But I don't have a time table in mind. I enjoy what I'm doing and as long as the good Lord allows me to keep doing it, I'm going to do it for a while.