So many Minor Leaguers never make it to the big show. They train for years, play for team after team, all for little to no money, and sometimes, sadly, it’s all for naught. But in the case of Hayden Hurst, not reaching the pinnacle of baseball success only took him down a brighter path… to football.
Hurst’s right arm was so powerful that he pitched for the varsity high school team when he was in 8th grade. At the age of 13, he became one of the youngest athletes ever to undergo Tommy John surgery.* Forgoing college, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2012 Draft when he was 18 years old.
But once Hurst was in the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League, something changed. Like countless players before him, Hurst had the Yips. He was walking every batter as if the strike zone didn’t exist. He felt ill. He said his body would shake and he couldn’t feel his right hand.
And nothing helped. No doctor of any kind, even a hypnotist, could diagnose Hurst with any medical condition. He wasn’t a success at first base either, an attempt by the Pirates to make use of him in another way.
Hayden Hurst is a prime example of the heart leading and the body following. It wasn’t that Hurst wasn’t good, it was that his heart wasn’t in baseball: it was in football. So he walked onto the team at South Carolina in 2015, earned a scholarship in 2016, and set the school’s single-season tight end receptions record the following fall.
This year, at the ripe old age of 25, he entered the NFL Draft. At 6″5, weighing 250 pounds, with his speed and dexterity, he was regarded by many as the top tight end prospect in his draft class.
With the 25th overall pick, the Baltimore Ravens called Hayden Hurst’s name.
*Per Darren Rovell