BRANDON — Perhaps Spencer Haynes' reaction to an interview request summed it up best.
On a Brandon baseball team that sees James Ramsay and Roderick Shoulders getting the majority of the media coverage, Haynes is often overlooked. When a reporter asked to speak with him, the senior seemed a bit shocked.
"Spencer looked at me and said 'Are you sure they said Haynes and not James (Ramsay),' " coach Matt Stallbaumer said with a laugh. "I thought that was classic."
Although Ramsay and Shoulders get most of the ink, Haynes has proven every bit as valuable to the Eagles over the past three seasons. The senior shortstop co-captain (along with Shoulders and Ramsay) is rock solid on defense, is an above-average hitter, has some pop and steals bases at the top of the Eagles' lineup. On top of that, Stallbaumer said Haynes is an extension of the coaching staff.
"He's like having an extra coach on the field," Stallbaumer said. "He knows where everyone needs to be and has been a huge part of the reason this program has been successful over the past few years."
Haynes also has emerged as the leader in the clubhouse, providing the liaison between coaching staff and players.
"He knows how to motivate the guys, and when I need a fire lit under them, I always go to Spencer," Stallbaumer said. "He's the guy because all of the players like and — more importantly — respect him."
Haynes said the leadership role he has taken on the team has developed over the years.
"I don't think you just start off as a leader. It's something that I've worked into," he said. "As the shortstop and batting leadoff, I feel it's my job. Anything coach needs, he knows he can come to me and I will do."
Haynes had a solid year as a sophomore, hitting .283 with three HRs and 19 RBIs on Brandon's improbable run to the state finals. But with classmates Shoulders and Ramsay both hitting over .400 that year, their names became synonymous with Brandon baseball.
"In any sport, you need more than one or two guys to make things successful," Stallbaumer said. "Spencer may not be as well known as the other guys but I'll tell you what, he would be the man on nearly every other team in this county."
Haynes broke out last season in a year when Ramsay and Shoulders missed nearly the entire schedule with injuries. Haynes hit .356 with two homers and 26 RBIs. Still, most media outlets focused on the return of Ramsay and Shoulders for this season rather than Haynes' emergence. Haynes, who grew up alongside Shoulders, said not being in the spotlight is nothing new to him.
"I'm kind of used to it by now," Haynes said. "I never show people that it bothers me; I just use it as motivation to do better."
And that's exactly what Haynes has done this season, hitting .364 with five doubles, one home run and 14 RBIs (as of press time) so far. Haynes and Shoulders will continue playing together for at least two more years as well. Both have signed with the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota for next season.
As for this year, with the Saladino Tournament a week away, Haynes said the 13-2 Eagles are poised to make another run at the state title.
"We have a fire in our eyes," he said. "We don't want to look back (at 2008) because this is different. We're seniors, this is our last chance, and we're hungry."
Brandon Wright can be reached at email@example.com.