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Summer Hayes Coming to Oxford

Former Oxford High standout Hayes Harrison (right), the 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball and Gatorade player of the year for Alabama, signs Wednesday to play summer ball for the Choccolocco Monsters. The team also announced Etowah High assistant coach Ricky Clayton (center) as its head coach. Also pictured: Kaleigh Clayton, Ricky’s wife. (Submitted photo)
Former Oxford High standout Hayes Harrison (right), the 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball and Gatorade player of the year for Alabama, signs Wednesday to play summer ball for the Choccolocco Monsters. The team also announced Etowah High assistant coach Ricky Clayton (center) as its head coach. Also pictured: Kaleigh Clayton, Ricky’s wife. (Submitted photo)

Oxford, AL – Harrison, former Oxford standout and 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball, will reunite with Brooks for summer ball with Monsters. Team also hires Clayton as head coach.

By Joe Medley

 Hayes Harrison knew he’d have a homecoming, coming back to Choccolocco Park to play in this week’s Alabama Community College Conference baseball tournament.

Only recently did the former Oxford High standout know his homecoming would come with a news conference and announcement of an extended homecoming.

Former Oxford High standout Hayes Harrison (right), the 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball and Gatorade player of the year for Alabama, signs Wednesday to play summer ball for the Choccolocco Monsters. The team also announced Etowah High assistant coach Ricky Clayton (center) as its head coach. Also pictured: Kaleigh Clayton, Ricky’s wife. (Submitted photo)
Former Oxford High standout Hayes Harrison (right), the 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball and Gatorade player of the year for Alabama, signs Wednesday to play summer ball for the Choccolocco Monsters. The team also announced Etowah High assistant coach Ricky Clayton (center) as its head coach. Also pictured: Kaleigh Clayton, Ricky’s wife. (Submitted photo)

The Monsters celebrated Harrison’s signing with the Choccolocco Monsters Sunbelt League wood-bat summer team Wednesday, one day before Harrison and his Northwest Shoals Community College teammates begin play in the ACCC tourney.

The team also marked the hiring of its head coach, Etowah High School assistant head coach and pitching coach Ricky Clayton.

Wednesday’s announcement came a week after the Monsters announced that Roby Brooks, owner and CEO of Top Gun Athletics and Harrison’s former travel-ball coach, would serve as the team’s general manager.

The Monsters returned to Oxford after playing their 2023 season in Columbus, Ga. They moved back to Oxford, where they played in 2022, after the Atlanta Braves moved their Double-A farm team to Columbus.

The team’s move back to Oxford and hiring of Brooks suddenly gave Harrison a chance to come home and showcase his skills in wood-bat baseball for professional scouts.

“Knowing that my travel coach for my whole life was going to be the general manager and kind of run it, that was a huge factor in me considering that,” Harrison said. “Before that, I didn’t know what I was going to do this summer. I didn’t know if I was going to play or train or what.”

The 2023 Alabama Mr. Baseball and Gatorade player of the year, who went 13-0 as a pitcher and otherwise played first base on Oxford’s Class 6A state-title team, gave the Monsters an instant draw.
“He was the first guy I thought of,” Brooks said.

The Monsters play in the wood-bat Sunbelt summer league, which is supported by Major League Baseball. College players who play their college seasons with aluminum bats play in summer leagues to showcase what they can do with wood bats.

Sunbelt League teams select players within a 30-mile radius of home plate.

Harrison is finishing his freshman season at Northwest Shoals. Playing first base, he has appeared in 48 games, batting .358 with a .445 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. He has 48 hits in 134 at bats, with eight doubles, a triple, three home runs and 27 RBIs.

On the mound, Harrison is 5-2 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.18 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 66 innings. He has 12 appearances and six starts.
“It’s gone pretty well,” he said. “There’s been a little bit of adjusting. It’s been a bit more challenging. I’ve had to adapt a little bit.

“The pitching has definitely been more challenging than it has been in years past for me. Just throwing more off-speed stuff and getting that stuff in fastball counts and just being more selective.”

He didn’t watch the pitch when he got the text message then call from Brooks about playing in Oxford this summer.

“In the back of my mind, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a great opportunity, being back in my hometime, playing baseball again on my home field,’” Harrison said. “This is just awesome.

“I took a while and thought about it, prayed about it. I just wanted to be sure the decision was right.”

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