PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth High School senior Hayden Yerardi’s signing to Ohio Christian University, where he’ll continue his education and baseball career, is a culmination of years of hard work.
Yerardi said at Monday’s signing ceremony that his coaches over the years are those who’ve pushed him to be the best and who bear some responsibility in him continuing to play the game of baseball at the next level.
“I owe this all to them (coaches). They’ve been with me from when I was in fourth and fifth grade coming into my senior year now,” Yerardi said. “They’ve always been there anytime I’ve wanted to put in extra time working and practicing.
This sentiment was echoed by Yerardi’s coaches — both past and present.
The Trojan senior got his baseball start playing at the youth level for little league coaches Virgil Howard and Aaron Duncan, where his love for the game quickly stood out.
“It’s heartwarming. As a kid, he wore the game on his sleeve. Wanted it more than anybody else and he has just worked hard,” Howard said. “He’s had to go through some things that other kids haven’t had to go through, and he’s overcome it.”
Duncan, who accepted the Portsmouth High varsity coaching position prior to the nixed 2020 season, will now coach Yerardi during his senior season alongside his son Michael — the two classmates being teammates and friends as they grew up.
“I told Hayden anytime you get an opportunity to have your education paid for and play a sport, you’re in an elite category. It doesn’t happen to very many athletes that are playing, it’s something for he and his family to be proud of for the work he’s put in growing up,” Duncan said. “His son and my son are seniors, so I’ve known Hayden as a child playing little league. We’ve seen Hayden and his love for the game from the time he was little until now.”
In addition to his time spent improving as a member of the Trojans’ high school team, Yerardi has spent his last several summers as a member of Portsmouth Post 23’s Legion Team, including last summer playing for former Portsmouth coach Josh McGraw, who coached Hayden during his first two high school seasons.
McGraw said Yerardi’s work ethic is what has allowed him success throughout his baseball career — and what will continue helping him at the collegiate level.
“What will transfer is his hard work. I had him for two years in high school, two years in summer ball — he always showed up and put in the work,” McGraw said. “He’s ready, mentally and physically, to play at the next level.”
Yerardi’s versatility — playing in different positions such as catcher, pitcher, third base and across the outfield — is what drew a keen interest from Ohio Christian University at Yerardi’s private workout with the school.
Trailblazers assistant coach Jacob McFarland said at Monday’s ceremony that those tools will help the Trojan senior fit in roles they’ll ask of him beginning next spring.
“When we saw him at his workout, I think the thing that captured us most was his versatility,” McFarland said. “His ability to hit well, throw the ball, and play different positions — things that will be very useful at the collegiate level.”
Although the 2020 spring season was canceled due to concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, Yerardi and his Trojan teammates still have hopes for what they hope to achieve in their final high school season.
A push in the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference race is at the top of those hopes, along with fulfilling their senior year — just as they started it during their little league playing days.
“Been with this senior class for awhile, played with the same group of guys since about fourth grade,” Yerardi said. “I want us to be able to compete in the OVC this year, hopefully push for one of those top two spots.”
The Portsmouth senior said he plans to major in education, and has plans of becoming a teacher following graduation from Ohio Christian.
“I’m really blessed to have this opportunity. Really happy to continue my education, have it somewhat paid for and continue playing baseball the next four years,” Yerardi said. “It’s really exciting — I wanted to play at the next level for as long as I can.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved