JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville University didn’t have to go far to find a new baseball coach who also happens to be an alumnus and former JU player as assistant coach Chris Hayes was named head coach Friday.
“I believe in promoting our own talent where appropriate and with Chris we not only have that opportunity, but, we proudly are getting a JU alumnus and Jacksonville guy,’’ Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert said in announcing the hiring. “We have had inquiries from highly regarded coaches around the country but I kept coming back to the idea that we have the person we want to lead the program already in place.’’
Hayes replaces former coach Tim Montez who parted ways with the University last week.
"I am beyond humbled, thankful and honored to have this opportunity presented by President (Tim) Cost and Athletic Director Alex Ricker-Gilbert,’’ Hayes said. “This is home. I have grown up here, in this town, at this institution. Jacksonville University has provided so much for me in my growth as a student-athlete and as a coach. Now, I look forward to giving back to the University and our baseball family."
Hayes first joined the Dolphins as an assistant coach in 2003 and helped the team to back-to-back Atlantic Sun Conference Championships and NCAA Regional appearances in 2006 and 2007. It marked the first consecutive regional appearances for the program since his final two years as a player with the Dolphins (1994-95). As recruiting coordinator, Hayes received national accolades with back-to-back recruiting classes ranked in Collegiate Baseball’s Top 40 poll.
He then went to Seminole State College of Florida for five years where his team compiled a 125-113-1 overall record and represented the Mid-Florida Conference in the FCSAA state. During his tenure, 51 student-athletes moved on to play at four-year universities and 11 were selected in MLB draft. Among the 32 were named all-conference selections Hayes has mentored, eight earned all-state recognition including the 2013 conference Pitcher of the Year, 2011 Player of the Year, 2010 Fireman of the Year and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year.
A Jacksonville native and graduate of Englewood High School, Hayes returned to JU in the summer of 2013 and has been with the team since.
Prior to his time at JU, Hayes spent two years as an assistant coach at Wolfson High School in Jacksonville from 2001-03, where the team won the district championship in 2002 and 2003 and was ranked 12th nationally at the end of the 2003 season.
Before launching his coaching career, Hayes spent five seasons (1995-2000) with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization after being drafted in the 28th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
Hayes was a four-year starter at Jacksonville from 1992-95, twice earning All-Sun Belt Conference honors. He also picked up all-regional accolades as a junior. Hayes led the Dolphins to their only consecutive NCAA Regional appearances (1994, 1995) in school history and ranks among the all-time Jacksonville leaders in RBI (176), at-bats (802), hits (271), doubles (53) and total bases (402).
Hayes earned his bachelor’s degree from the University in finance in 1995 and his MBA in 2007.
"It is a privilege to have this opportunity to serve Jacksonville University and the JU baseball family,’’ Hayes said. “I am so excited to build onto the great tradition that is JU baseball. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and mentorship provided by former coaches and friends, Terry Alexander and Tim Montez. They both have great faith in me and a love for JU baseball. The future is bright for JU and I look forward to the journey. I cannot wait to get started."
Ricker-Gilbert also said Chuck Jeroloman, who has been the team’s second assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, has been promoted to the lead assistant coach role. Jeroloman joined the team in July of 2013.
Hayes will hit the recruiting trail immediately and a press conference with the new coach will be held in early July.
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