New athletic director Ryan Hayden brings youthful enthusiasm to Jeannette

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Monday, August 5, 2019 | 3:03 PM


Ryan Hayden peered out from the press box at McKee Stadium as workers smoothed over gravel and continued to prepare the historic field for artificial turf.

The Jeannette faithful are awaiting the big reveal. Count Hayden among them.

“It’s a good time to be around here,” Hayden said. “Everyone is upbeat and excited about the field. So many teams will be able to use it. It’s great to see things moving forward.”

That excitement is not lost on Hayden, the school’s rookie athletic director who, at 27, brings a youthful enthusiasm to the position, during a time of advancing change in the district.

“There never will be a lack of energy or effort from me,” Hayden said. “I enjoy helping people and teaching kids. I love sports, so it’s all a perfect combo.”

While he still is getting acclimated to the sports department — the sixth-grade teacher at Jeannette was hired about two weeks ago — Hayden is aware of how integral athletics are to the city.

The former Hempfield football and baseball standout, who played the latter sport at Seton Hill for four years, said he remembers meeting Terrelle Pryor around 2007 when the Jayhawks practiced at Hempfield during the playoffs.

“I remember when Terrelle blew up and how good those teams were,” Hayden said. “Hempfield is a great school and I love the people there, but I wish we could be on the winning end of more football games. Jeannette has such a strong tradition. It’s a very involved community, and they care deeply about their sports. I want the fans to have fun.”

Jeannette has more wins in football (747) than any WPIAL program.

Hayden, just five years out of college, has leaned on the advice of Jeannette’s two previous athletic directors, Bill Petko and Anthony DeNunzio. Petko, whom Hayden replaced in the position, was an assistant baseball coach at Hempfield when Hayden played there. Hayden has quite a bit of coaching experience. He was an assistant baseball coach at Hempfield for five years under one of his mentors, Tim Buzzard, and has worked with middle school football teams at Hempfield and Greensburg Salem, while also serving as a boys basketball coach for the seventh- and eighth-grade team for one year.

He also referenced Seton Hill baseball coach Marc Marizzaldi as a key influence.

“No matter what, I always want the kids to have the best experience possible,” he said. “And I want to see them work hard. Complacency is a killer.”

As a side business, Hayden trains youth baseball players. He said he has nearly 50 participants in his program.

Apparently, he also woudn’t be a bad teammate on the golf course, either. He said he sports a 3 handicap at Hannastown Golf Club.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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