Former Bellevue College player now with Cougars | Reporter Q and A

Keaton Hayenga drives to the basket during a game with Bellevue College.  - Courtesy photo, NWAACC
Keaton Hayenga drives to the basket during a game with Bellevue College.
— image credit: Courtesy photo, NWAACC

Keaton Hayenga has taken a different route than most to a Pac-12 basketball court.

An Eastlake graduate, Hayenga was drafted in the 31st round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft and spent five years in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, making 38 appearances on the mound during his stint as a professional baseball player.

Also a standout basketball player during his time with the Wolves, Hayenga decided to head from the diamond to the court, and the classroom, at Bellevue College, where he was named second team all region in the NWAACC after one season with the Bulldogs.

Hayenga will get his first taste of live action with WSU when the Cougars open the regular season against Eastern Washington in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Beasley Coliseum on November 10.

He took some time with the Reporter to talk about life in the minors, getting back on campus and of course, Cougar Gold.

BELLEVUE REPORTER: Before getting to Washington State, you played in the Royals farm system. What were the best and worst parts about life on the road in the minors?

KEATON HAYENGA: I think just getting to play baseball, which is a sport I loved growing up. Having that opportunity was something I was tremendously blessed to get to do. It is sort of two-fold. Being away from home for nine months was pretty tough. The travel and stuff is a demanding schedule and it's not a glamourous lifestyle. But it's a lot of fun.

REPORTER: What is the biggest difference between professional sports and collegiate sports?

HAYENGA: It has been kind of a cool transition because I've seen that professional side. It's a lot more self-directed and your work ethic is what is going to get things done because there isn't a coach or academic people telling you where to be and what to do. College is a lot more structured and it allows guys to have a schedule and routine of getting things done.

REPORTER: Was baseball or basketball your first love?

HAYENGA: Honestly, I don't know if I could ever choose which was my first love. I can remember playing both sports about the same time and I loved them both.

REPORTER: Which is more fun: dunking on a guy, or getting a swinging strikeout?

HAYENGA: That's tough…I would say there is probably nothing more exciting than dunking on someone. That is one of the coolest plays in sports. But standing on the mound and getting a big strikeout is a pretty cool feeling too.

REPORTER: Does your head coach Ken Bone ever smile?

HAYENGA: (Laughing) Yeah, he does. He has a sneaky dense of humor and he dishes out jokes pretty good.

REPORTER: What was the biggest change going to Division I from Bellevue College?

HAYENGA: The talent at the Pac-12 level is off the charts. Im excited to get into the league and see what it has to offer. The cliche is the game is a lot faster and it holds true. You have to make decisions so much quicker at this level.

REPORTER: Is Cougar Gold as great as WSU people say?

HAYENGA: It is great stuff. There are a couple restaurants that do the Cougar Gold macaroni and cheese. It is one of the best things I've ever eaten.

REPORTER: Where will Washington State be seeded when the Pac-12 tournament begins?

HAYENGA: I don't know. We're just focused on trying to get better every day in practice. If we continue to work hard and play as a team, we will have a good season.

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