The Jackson Hammerheads organization is in mourning today. Manager Lou Hayes, who was sidelined in midseason due to a heart attack, passed away this morning at the age of 54 due to complications from his coronary.
In his inaugural season with Jackson, Hayes compiled a 70-56 record before collapsing in the locker room while addressing his team on August 25th. He underwent apparently successful bypass surgery the next day, but he was unable to return to the team. In recent days, he had returned to the hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest. He was scheduled to be released later this week, but unexpectedly succumbed to a valve rupture.
Hayes was widely respected and loved within the Jackson clubhouse, and news of his passing sent shockwaves through the organization. “I can’t believe Lou’s gone,” said Hammerheads C Clarence Doyle. “It’s pretty ironic that he had heart trouble, ‘cause he had a bigger heart than anybody I know.”
“It’s just not right,” said CF Damian “Black Hammer” Deason. “Lou was my guy. He was the White Lightning to my Black Hammer. I can’t imagine him not being here.”
“Lou and I had our tough times,” said closer Rick Sheen, “but he was like a father to me. I can’t help but feel responsible; I probably did more than anyone to cause his heart attack.”
“The Hammerheads organization extends its deepest condolences to the Hayes family,” said Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler. “Lou Hayes embodied all that was great about baseball and instilled the ‘get on base’ methodology that will lead the Hammerheads to numerous championships.”
Butler announced that the team would dedicate next season to Hayes’ memory. He also said that a plaque honoring the manager would be placed in the center-field fence, forever memorializing Hayes in Hammerheads lore.
Hayes’ passing creates a somewhat awkward situation for the Hammerheads, who already knew that they would be searching for a new manager next season. Prior to his passing, Hayes had already decided to retire due to his health, and had informed the organization of his plans.
The Hammerheads had already made the decision not to retain interim manager Eddie Harris, who went 13-11 over the final month of the season. The organization considered delaying the announcement about Harris in the wake of Hayes’ passing, but felt that it would be best not to leave Harris twisting in the wind.
“Eddie Harris had a run; not great and not awful,” said Butler. “That’s not good enough around here. We wish him well.”
A distraught Harris fought to hold back tears as he addressed the press. “I guess it’s an understatement to say it’s a hard day for me,” Harris said. “Lou’s my friend, and it hurts to know he’s gone. My only consolation is knowing that St. Peter’s getting a nice room ready for him up in heaven. Next to that, getting fired isn’t as bad, but it’s still tough. I guess the team did what they felt they had to do. But the good Lord wouldn’t put me through this trial if he didn’t think I could handle it.”
Harris joined the team in May as pitching coach, after Steve Parkinson resigned for family reasons. It was hoped that the former major-league pitcher would be able to turn around Jackson’s struggling staff. Though that didn’t happen, Harris reportedly developed a rapport with the players. That is presumably why the team appointed him as interim manager when Hayes went down.
Butler declined to address the status of the rest of the Jackson coaching staff. Bench coach Pepper Leach, first base coach Gus Cantrell, third base coach Duke Temple, bullpen coach Jake Taylor, and hitting coach Pedro Cerrano remain in limbo while the Hammerheads search for a new manager.
According to team sources, the Hammerheads will cast their net far and wide in searching for a replacement. Among the reported candidates: former Angels manager George Knox, ex-Cubs pilot Sal Martinella, former Twins skipper Billy Heywood, noted youth coach Gordon Bombay, and current Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley.