Hayden Thomas was still in diapers the first time he picked up a stick and used it as a bat. His father, Mark, tossed him a plastic ball and the toddler smacked the first pitch he saw over the fence in the backyard.
“I just thought, ‘We have a baseball player!’” Mark said.
The honors keep coming for the recent Rouse graduate.
He was named District 19-5A MVP after helping the Raiders make it to the postseason for the second year in a row and played in the AABCA and THSCA All-Star games the last two weekends at Dell Dimond.
He’ll pitch at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi next season.
“My first three years, I wasn’t the strongest. I was still learning,” Hayden said. “I felt like it finally clicked a little bit and I had a good final season. It was a change in attitude and confidence. Just confidence in my team and the guys I play with. I’ve just been having fun with it for sure and I’ve never been stressed out.”
En route to the top award in the district this season, he finished 9-2 with a 1.40 ERA and 95 strikeouts. He also hit .325 with 20 RBIs and 8 doubles.
A four-year member of the varsity team, he has a trio of pitches and has a fastball that gets into the 90s.
In back-to-back starts during the regular season, Hayden threw 16 strikeouts in a win against East View and followed that up with a dominating 12-strikeout, complete game shutout against Cedar Park.
Mark said he always knew Hayden had the potential not just because he’s his dad, but because there has been a long list of high-level coaches that have helped along the way.
“It’s kind of a culmination of his attitude of attitude, experience, work ethic and all the hours put into getting better,” Mark said. “He never says away from seeking the best help possible. He takes advantage of it.
“He was always wanting to play catch. There was a point beyond which I couldn’t go, he just threw too hard.”
His mom — sporting a maroon jersey with Thomas and No. 10 on the back — led the loudest cheering second at Dell Diamond during both All-Star appearances.
“Knowing you have them up there cheering you on always helps,” Hayden said. “My dad has been there for every game and if he’s not, he’s apologizing for it. And my mom is right there with him. They’re always supporting me.”
Rouse has had a massive turnaround in the last two seasons under head coach Chad Krempin, going from zero district wins in 2016 to the first district championship in school history and a regional quarterfinal appearance.
Hayden pushed himself toward all the accolades he deserves this season, but his favorite thing from the past four seasons with Rouse has been meeting and playing with his teammates.
“Getting to meet all the seniors every year and watching them grow, it was fun,” he said. “I feel like I’ve fulfilled my expectations. But I feel I have plenty more I can do for sure.”