Former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones has played a significant role in the Detroit Tigers’ surprising 2020 season. Unfortunately, he’ll only be able to watch how the rest of it plays out. Jones’ left hand was broken by a pitch on Tuesday, and he is done for the year. Playing regularly in center field, Jones was batting .268 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and 19 runs for a Tigers team that is 17-16 with six straight wins. The worst team in baseball in 2019 is in contention for a playoff spot. “I’ve been waiting on that for my whole career,” Jones, in his fifth MLB season, told mlb.com prior to Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for our guys and I’m looking forward to it.” It’s the second straight year Jones’ season has been ended prematurely by a hand injury. He has endured more than his fair share of injuries the last few years, having been hit in the face by a pitch in 2017 and spent time on the injured list with back, shoulder and hamstring issues. The Tigers may never miss him more than this month. “He’s been the spark plug to this team all year — his hitting, his defense, his leadership in the dugout. It stinks to lose a guy like that,” Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer told mlb.com. P.S. On the bright side: Former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman was activated from the IL by Seattle. He has been out since Aug. 4 with neck problems stemming from a benign tumor on his spine. The veteran right-hander reportedly will shift from starter to the bullpen. Graveman, 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in two starts for the Mariners, is in his first season with the team as he comes back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him most of last season. … Ke’Bryan Hayes told reporters that his father, Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, couldn’t stop crying when informed his son was getting called to the big leagues. In his debut for Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the younger Hayes, a third baseman like his pops, went 2-for-5 with a homer that likely brought more tears. “Even when I was in the minor leagues and I hit a home run, my mom said he would cry,” Ke’Bryan Hayes said. “I thank him for everything.”
With the Little League World Series having been cancelled for 2020, the grand accomplishment of the 1977 Hub City team will go unmatched for at least another year. That Hattiesburg team, launched from Vernon Dahmer Park and featuring future big leaguer Charlie Hayes and future Southern Miss football star Andrew Mott, is the only Mississippi squad to reach Williamsport, Pa., home of the LLWS since 1947. Hub City, one of eight teams in the field that year, did not win the championship – they won the consolation bracket after falling in the first round – but made quite the impression at the event. A Sports Illustrated story about the ’77 LLWS described Hub City as “an all-black team that was the loosest, friendliest and most relaxed of the bunch. The Mississippi kids milled about International Grove—which other bored U.S. clubs christened ‘Stalag 17’—in happy confinement, soul-slapping everybody in sight and setting up a souvenir money exchange with the Taiwanese, as well as playing well enough on the field to win the consolation-round championship.” Coached by Kenneth Fairley and Robert “Boot” Walker, Hub City lost to undefeated California 3-1 in its opening game, then beat Spain 10-2 and Ohio 9-2 for the consolation crown. Hayes would go on to star at Forrest County AHS and then play 14 years in the big leagues. He is one of a small bunch of players who have appeared in both the LLWS and the major league World Series; he won a ring with 1996 New York Yankees. (Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, from Indiana, also achieved that double.) Mott played four years at USM as a wide receiver/kick returner and for a time held the school record for longest TD reception. “We didn’t have much, but we had each other,” Craig Walker, another member of the Hub City team, told sports601.com in a 2019 story. “If kids today believed in themselves (like we did) and never let others bring them down, they could go back and do it again.”
Charlie Hayes had just three hits in 16 at-bats in the 1996 World Series, but what New York Yankees fans seem to remember is that the Hattiesburg native caught the foul pop that wrapped up the Yanks’ first championship in 18 years. The Yankees celebrated that title during their annual Old-Timer’s Game on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, and Hayes, now 51, was there with the likes of John Wetteland, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill, other heroes of ’96. Though Hayes played only 262 of his 1,547 career games with the Yankees, he’ll be forever linked with the boys in pinstripes thanks to that Series victory over Atlanta. In the Game 6 clincher, Mark Lemke hit the pop that settled into Hayes’ glove and sent him leaping into the air. “I think I’ve had over four million people tell me they were at the game, so, it’s kind of unique,” Hayes said in a story on mlb.com. Hayes, drafted by San Francisco out of Forrest County AHS in 1983, actually had many shining moments in a 14-year MLB career spent with five different clubs. He hit 144 homers, including 25 with Colorado in 1993, when he led the National League in doubles with 45 and batted a career-high .305.