Long before joining the Dodgers, family ties nearly brought Jason Hayward to UCLA.

Got two Kenny Washingtons UCLA Sports Hall of Fame.

More famous was the trailblazer who broke barriers in three sports. He was Jackie Robinson’s baseball teammate in the late 1930s, the first All-American consensus in the history of the football program, and in 1946 one of four black players to be reintegrated into the National Football League.

Another left his memorable legacy to the Bruins decades later.

In the 1960s, this Washington was a leading figure in the first two of John Wooden’s 10 national championship basketball teams. He had a legendary 26-point game in the 1964 title game.

After a short professional career, he returned to Washington. University of California at Los Angeles in the 1970s, head coach of the women’s basketball team.

And in 2005, he was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, honored during an on-campus ceremony attended by a host of other Bruins icons – and one precocious young member of his family.

For a long time Jason Hayward was selected in the first round Atlanta BravesMLB All-Star and World Series champion or experienced outfielder who now plays a key role in first place Dodgers teamhe was an outstanding high school baseball player from Georgia aspiring to follow in his great uncle’s footsteps across the country.

Hayward’s father, Eugene, is Washington’s nephew. After spending his early childhood in South Carolina, Eugene lived with his uncle in Los Angeles as a teenager, graduating high school there before going to play basketball at Dartmouth University (where he met Hayward’s mother, Laura).

Although Hayward’s parents eventually settled in Georgia, where he went to high school south of Atlanta, Hayward made occasional trips to Los Angeles with his father as he grew up—primarily for induction into the Washington Hall of Fame. shortly before the start of Hayward’s junior baseball season. . . .

Hayward, a tall, athletic outfielder, was by then a highly touted prospect, garnering interest from schools like Clemson and Georgia Tech, but that trip in 2005 propelled UCLA to the top of his list.

Jason Hayward avoids being tagged St. Catcher by Louis Cardinals Wilson Contreras.

Jason Hayward avoids being tagged St. Catcher “Louis Cardinals” Wilson Contreras moves into the house during a May 21 game.

(Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

And had it not been for a perfect set of professional circumstances — when his home state of the Braves selected him 14th overall in 2007 — he could have been the next great UCLA graduate in his family.

“It seemed like a good setting,” Hayward said. “Good atmosphere for growth.”

When he returned to Atlanta this week where Dodgers took two out of three games from the Braves, Hayward reflected on those early days, recounting the process that nearly led the Georgia native to UCLA.

A year after his great-uncle’s Hall of Fame induction, Hayward returned to campus for an official visit.

He was impressed by the coach John Savage, who just started his title-winning career in his 19th season. He befriended his owner, Brandon Crawford, then a rookie with the Bruins, who are now playing their 13th MLB season with the San Francisco Giants. He was even blown away by the atmosphere of the Rose Bowl after he went to watch one of the UCLA football games.

“Getting there, meeting Coach Savage, taking the tour, seeing the campus — it was absolutely wonderful,” Hayward said.

So, early in his senior year of high school, he assigned the Bruins to college.

However, the more Hayward impressed MLB scouts before the draft, the more difficult his decision became.

There were several early pick franchises that showed interest in Hayward, from the No. 1 Kansas City Royals. 2 to the No. 2 Florida Marlins. 12. But Hayward also knew there was a chance he could slip through draft board, leaving the UCLA promise in his back pocket just in case.

The only destination that made sense was the Braves, who lingered at the No. 1 peak. 14.

If that happens, Hayward told himself, I don’t think it makes sense to go to school.

Atlanta Braves rookie Jason Hayward during the team's first game against the Chicago Cubs.

Atlanta Braves rookie Jason Hayward during the team’s first game against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field in Atlanta on April 5, 2010.

(Rich Addix/Associated Press)

And so, his final choice was easy. The Braves selected Hayward and signed him to a $1.7 million contract. Despite his affection for UCLA, he gave up college eligibility when he was just 17 years old.

“I didn’t need to weigh much,” Hayward recalled.

Even Savage, who detailed the process in a 2010 interviewcould not help but agree.

“No doubt he would be a good little player,” the coach said at the time ahead of Hayward’s rookie season in MLB. But, Savage added, “this is one example of a guy making the right decision.”

The rest has become history.

Hayward finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, earning All-Star honors in 2010, and has blossomed as a Golden Glove right fielder on Braves teams that remain consistently in the postseason.

In 2016, he not only won the World Series with the Chicago Cubs, but also set famous speech in the seventh game this helped end that club’s 108-year title drought.

This year, after moving to the Dodgers on a minor-league contract in the offseason, the 33-year-old has revived his game once again, batting .228 with five home runs, 11 RBIs and above the league average of .807 on base. -plus-hammering percentage.

It’s finally the LA baseball moment he once dreamed of; only this comes 16 years after his plans to follow family ties at UCLA went the other way.

When asked this week what might have happened if the Braves had overtaken him in the draft and he was drafted to a different, less qualified team, Hayward pondered the serious “what if” question as he recalled the days when he seemed destined to be a Bruin.

“I don’t know,” he said. “At that time it was difficult to refuse the first round. There was a lot of hard work to be done. Playing in high school against guys from Florida, California, you see a lot of really good ballplayers. And you don’t know if you’ll get that chance again.”

But, he added, at least some of the blue and gold still throbs in his heart, “it seemed like a great opportunity.”