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Taking the long road back to Pullman
Published 6/12/2013 6:00:00 AM
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After hanging up his cleats and heading to the hardwood, WSU men’s basketball player Keaton Hayenga found his way back to Pullman.

Hayenga, a forward, took a rather unconventional path to WSU. After committing to play baseball for the Cougars and Head Coach Donnie Marbut, Hayenga decided to instead take his talents to Kansas City in the summer of 2007.

The Kansas City Royals drafted Hayenga in the 31st round of the MLB June Amateur Draft out of Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Wash.

Hayenga was a three-year starter for both the baseball and basketball teams at Eastlake High and said his focus and goal in high school was to become a professional baseball player.

However, after a bad dive back into first base during his senior season, Hayenga tore his labrum and partially tore his rotator cuff, altering his chances of making it to the big leagues.

"So I was already committed to WSU, and by then my ultimate goal was to one day play professional baseball, but having that bad of a shoulder injury as a pitcher is usually like the kiss of death," Hayenga said. "I was planning on going to WSU, I didn’t think I was going to get drafted."

But he did.

"They decided that I was worth the risk, so they made me an offer and I was good enough to pursue my dreams so I ended up signing," he said. "I think I signed like the day before school started."

Hayenga underwent 26 months of rehab on his shoulder before making his first appearance in a professional baseball game. But after his fourth start in his 2011 season Hayenga’s shoulder pain returned.

"It was to the point where I was going to have to get the same surgery on my shoulder again, just pitch through it, or be done. And I did not want to have surgery again," Hayenga said.

Hayenga retired in 2011 and within two weeks he was playing basketball in open gyms for Bellevue College where he then enrolled.

After one season with the Bellevue Bulldogs, Hayenga came back to Pullman to speak to Head Men’s Basketball Coach Ken Bone about potentially walking onto the team.

Unable to accept an athletic scholarship because of NCAA regulations regarding amateurism, Hayenga said he is a walk-on by default.

"I have money set aside from baseball and a program called the College Scholarship Program that they use for a lot of high school kids who sign as an incentive if baseball doesn’t work out. So I am basically on scholarship from the Royals," Hayenga said.

Regardless of Hayenga’s scholarship status or minutes played, Coach Bone said Hayenga plays an integral leadership role on the team.

"He is able to share from his heart, and it’s a good heart," Bone said. "It allows the guys to really be able to respect him."

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