Dee Haynes can’t remember all of the coaches who helped him realize a career as a professional baseball player.
But the former Heritage Academy and Delta State standout recalls being “blessed” to have had some “amazing” coaches, including his father, on a journey that helped him play six seasons in the minor leagues as a member of the St Louis Cardinals or the Washington Nationals organizations.
“It was a dream come true,” Haynes said about playing professional baseball. “Ever since I was 4 years old I wanted to play pro ball. That was my goal, and I never let anything take it away from me.”
Haynes hopes to help other baseball players with similar dreams realize their goals. Next week, he will team with Mississippi Delta Community College baseball coach Michael Avalon to put on the 5-Tool Baseball Camp at New Hope High School. The camp, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., is for players ages 5-12. It will focus on instruction of the five tools (running, throwing, hitting for power and average, and fielding) and will help introduce players to what they can expect at tryout/exposure camps.
“Being able to give some of (what he has learned about baseball) to the youth is something I have to do,” said Avalon, who works in the dual enrollment department at Mississippi Delta C.C. in Moorhead. He also has worked as a private hitting instructor for the past 11-12 years.
Haynes and Avalon have held 5-Tool Camps in Greenwood for the past three years. Haynes said he and Avalon also plan to hold another camp in Jackson later this year. He said their hope is that both events will become annual stops.
Haynes was a multi-sport standout at Heritage Academy in Columbus. He graduated in 1996 and went on to play baseball for three years at Delta State in Cleveland. The Cardinals drafted him in the 14th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball draft. He earned several accolades in the minor leagues, including All-Star and Rookie of the Year honors in AA ball with the New Haven Ravens (2002). He also was named the Cardinals No. 1 Power Hitting Prospect by Baseball America in 2003. In 2005, he earned All-Star recognition with the Nationals’ affiliate in Harrisburg.
Haynes said his goal is bringing the camp to Columbus is to help players work on all phases of their game. He said he and Avalon will make the experience fun and will work with the players in small groups to help ensure they are able to grasp the concepts and put them into action.
“Finding a facility to work at was the main thing,” Haynes said. “Coach Avalon is a good friend of (New Hope High baseball coach) Lee Boyd. It felt like a good fit (at New Hope). Once we found a facility, it was all about making contact and getting the word out.”
Avalon, who is from Jackson, recently completed his third season as head coach at Mississippi Delta C.C. In nearly 10 years as a college coach, Avalon understands the role showcases and exposure camps have in helping players get noticed. He hopes the player who attend the camps in Columbus and in Jackson have fun and learn something that helps them be better prepared when they are older and have another opportunity to participate in a tryout setting.
“The first thing we try to do is take care of the fundamentals and set their foundation,” said Avalon, who played baseball with Boyd at West Alabama. “We want them to have fun, and we want them to enjoy the game. … We try to give them some information and have them use it right away.”
Players should bring a glove, a hat, a bat, cleats, a helmet, a towel, a change of clothes and something to drink. Lunch and water will be provided.
The cost of the camp is $65. Those interested in attending are asked to call Haynes at 662-392-7907 or Avalon at 601-497-4300 to reserve a spot. Registration will be at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the field.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.