Tag Archives: Billy Horn

Introducing Coach Billy Horn

As the Atlantic League’s spring training gets underway, we want to introduce you to our newest guest blogger, Billy Horn.  Billy is the pitching coach for the Long Island Ducks. He will be guest blogging about life as a coach in the Atlantic League this season.

Here is his first introductory blog.

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Billy Horn – Blog # 1

Background

   I was born & raised in the Bronx, NY and always wanted to play in warm weather. In HS I played 3B, however never seeing 90+ helped me segway into becoming a pitcher down the road.
   I played at Division II powerhouse Lynn University in the Sunshine State Conference from ’98-’01. My freshman year I couldn’t hit 90+ plus AND I KNEW IT.
   Luckily I had a cannon for an arm so I decided to try pitching. I was only low – mid 80s after college and thought it was over and took “a real job”.
   I was playing in a men’s league and started throwing upper 80s. I had an opportunity to go to Italy and play in 2003. I was there 2003-2004 and played for the San Marino Titans. I was nothing special 88-91, with a plus curve – in my mid 20s and no real experience.
   Missing the Olympics that season due to injury, I came home and pitched in the Golden Baseball League for the Long Beach Armada in 2005. Having suffering a torn rotator cuff – it was all over.
   Working regular jobs and such, I hated it. Then I turned to coaching HS, then was the pitching coach in 2009 for my alma mater, Lynn University, winning the 2009 NCAA D II National Championship.
   Now doing lessons on the regular, I had to throw and long toss with the kids and I found myself 87-89 mph. In 2010, mid life crisis at age 29 kicked in and I went back to Italy to prove to myself I can do anything. Statistically it was a mess, but I showed myself what I needed to see.
   As you can see below, my career statistical totals are nothing special, but never stopped me from trying to coach.
G   GS   W – L   ERA    INN    H       K     BB   WHIP  HBP
47  27   9-12    4.40    184  193   143   64     1.39   15
   That was my last season and then a few seasons later, the Pecos League came calling for a coaching opportunity……….

Why Coaching?

   I got a call in winter of 2011 about a possible coaching opportunity while I was working a “real job”. I hated it and was “flipping boxes” in south Florida. I was selling copiers, business – business and it was the worst – we were lower than used car salesmen with cheesy 80s mustaches, fake leather booths and a real bad afta-shave! Our own clients hated us.
   When the opportunity came to fruition, I decided to say goodbye to being a nobody anymore and start signing autographs again — at least that’s what I thought.
   The Pecos League, 2012…………. Say what you want, but it has been a long standing league that has given many players opportunity in this game – and it saved my life and put me in the position I’m in today.
   I had fun there but knew that wasn’t the top stop for me. With nothing on the horizon of an upward move, I stared with the lessons and HS gig again, and of course, got tired of parents. They are the worst at the HS level – everyone’s son is the next MLB star and the coach is always wrong.
   Around that time, now long time friend, Brooks Carey, manager of the Normal Cornbelters in the Frontier League, knew Hal Lanier was looking for a pitching coach for the 2015 season for the Ottawa Champions in the CanAm League.
   Having been Hal’s pitching coach a few years prior, he knew what kind of guy Hal needed and he called Hal and said this is your guy – hire him. And of course Hal’s reply was “who the hell is Billy Horn?”
   This of course goes back to me never playing with an organization and only 4 short years of independent ball / Italian Baseball League under my belt.
   Of course we met and Hal offered me the job about a month later.
   2015, the inaugural season, despite not making the playoffs, was a personal success. Having a lot of leeway come towards the latter part of the year, Hal was teaching me about managing in independent baseball. Player procurement. Player procurement. Player procurement.

   What I learned most was this —

“When coaches are being seeked-out, a manager needs to know ONLY 3 things :
1) Can he get players
2) Can he throw BP
3) Can I live with this guy for 6 months”
That’s it! Doesn’t matter in independent ball where you played, where you coached, but if you can get players, throw BP and people like you, you’ll get a job!
   2016 was a story book season. Here, we won the CanAm League Championship, Hal was named MOY, I was of course making all the mound visits, BUT I WAS ALSO taking guys out of games, doing the plate meeting before games with the umpires and opposing manager, writing he occasional lineup, doing pregame interviews everyday and sometimes coaching 3B. All managerial duties.
   Hal was very gracious in teaching me and showing me the ropes – it was the best on-the-job training anyone could ask for – by an MLB Manager of the Year Award winner. It was a great 2 years and I’m going to miss Ottawa, the organization and my man Hal.

How Did I Get to Long Island?

   With all that being said, I knew I had hit my ceiling in the CanAm League and one afternoon I decided to “test the waters”.  Being that I was handling part of the procurement duties, I developed relationships with managers, coaches and GMs with every single club in all of Indy ball – from the Pecos / United Shores developmental leagues all the up to the Frontier, AA and The Atlantic League.
   While interviewing for an AA managing job, I thought ‘why keep all my eggs on one basket’?
  A simple text to Long Island Ducks GM changed everything.
  “Hey Mike (Pfaff). Hope all is well. If there become any openings for a pitching coach in the Atlantic League, please keep me in mind. Thank you.”
   A few moments later he replies :
“Send me your resume. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
   I was excited and thought maybe one of the other clubs maaaaaay have an opening. When he called and said Long Island was looking for a pitching coach I knew this was the opportunity for me that I was looking for.
   After a lengthy interview process, I got the call. At the beginning it was mixed emotions – leaving Hal in Ottawa but he gave me his blessing and told me this isn’t something to pass up.
   Now, about a month away from spring training, I’m really looking forward to getting there and getting to work. Long Island is also about an hour away from my hometown. Being able to coach close to home and family is also a major plus.
   I try to explain the path of coaching to young independent players that themselves and myself are in the same boat – were both trying to make it to the big leagues someday – however, if we both make it, you’re going to make a lot more money as a player than I would a coach!
   With that being said, just being in the game of baseball as a profession and not doing the “suit and tie thing” is big league enough for me.

Billy will be guest blogging all summer long about his season in the Atlantic League.

Make sure to subscribe to our email list! You won’t want to miss out on any of our guest blogs this season!

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The 38 Year Old Rookie – Bryan Hoover

Last season, former high school and college baseball player, Bryan Hoover, had a goal that thousands around the country only dream about  – to play professional baseball.

This sounds like a story that is told over and over again, but this one is a little bit different.  Hoover is 38 years old and had not played baseball competitively in 19 years.

After graduating high school in 1995 and playing at Gordon College in 1996, he gave up baseball at the age of 19 to serve God. For the last 20 years, Hoover has used his musical ability to serve God through ministry work and has also formed and pastored The Avenue Church from 2010 to 2014.

In 2014, the desire to play baseball competitively came back to him. He began training, getting in baseball shape, and eating healthier. After a year of hard work and dedication, Hoover, with the support of his wife, Angela, and their three children began traveling the country to various baseball tryouts.

During one tryout in Camden, NJ for the Atlantic League’s Riversharks, he impressed a group of fans with his talent and great attitude.  One fan in particular, Tom Peculski, turned out to be a huge blessing for Hoover. Although Hoover failed to make the Riversharks roster, it was only the beginning of his friendship with Peculski.

“Several days later, Bryan had sent me a friend request on social media.  I accepted and began following his travels,” Peculski explained.

“As we spoke, he disclosed to me that he was 37 years old. I almost fell out of my seat. He was in better shape at 37 than I was at 27, let alone now! I saw that he was in my area, so I offered him a home-cooked meal and a place to sleep for the night. That trip turned out to last about two weeks. I traveled with Bryan to numerous ballparks and tryouts, and we both made our first to the National Baseball Hall of Fame together.”

Finally, Hoover was given a tryout in upstate New York for the newly formed North Country Baseball League (NCBL). Peculski and Hoover jumped in the car and headed to yet another tryout together.

“I agreed to make the six hour journey with him. This was our second journey there in less than a week. By this time, the local media had discovered Bryan and covered his story,” Peculski said.  “On this journey, Bryan was immediately signed by the Road City Explorers. It was so amazing to see Bryan achieve his lifelong dream.”

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(Bryan Hoover)

Hoover held his own with the Road City Explorers, becoming a leader in the clubhouse and impressing coaches from not only the NCBL, but all around independent baseball.

Eddie Gonzalez, manager for the Road City Explorers, had nothing but great things to say about Hoover.

“I first saw Bryan Hoover when he came to an Explorers tryout for the NCBL.  I was the manager of the team at the time and we had about 25 players trying out.  I noticed his fielding and throwing skills, along with his speed before knowing anything about him.  I asked him about his experience and he said he was a rookie.. so I went on to ask him if teams had shown interest in him, and if not why??  He replied by saying  ‘after college, being the best time to have pursued pro baseball, I was led to get into local ministry work with the church. NOW I am 38 years old and it’s time to do this!  I know my time is short but this is a dream of mine and I must conquer it before I really have zero chance.’

“I was blown away by his answer because for 19 years Bryan had not played ball, yet got him self ready to come to a pro tryout and out perform guys that were already on the team, fresh out of college, and with affiliated pro experience.  Two weeks after signing, the Explorers promoted Alfredo Patino to York of the Atlantic league which opened a utility spot. I felt he was a perfect fit to jump in that role, and I was confident that Bryan deserved a shot.  He proved in a league full of players that went on to play in Atlantic league or American Association, that he could play with the best of them.

“It was an honor being the 1st Pro Manager, that did not disqualified Bryan over age and experience and gave him a chance at achieving his dream of playing professional baseball.”

Now, Hoover is looking ahead to next season. He wants to continue playing professional baseball and move up the indy ball ladder with his family by his side. Getting his story out there and making an impression on coaches in other leagues is certainly a start. One coach that he has had an impact on is Billy Horn, pitching coach for the Can-Am’s Ottawa Champions.

“I’ve had the privilege of meeting Bryan at a couple of workouts over the past year and was shocked when I found out he was 38. It’s amazing seeing a guy 10-15 years older than everyone out there and run a 6.81 60 yard dash, have a better arm than most of the guys and swings the bat pretty well also.

“After speaking with him, I was even more shocked to learn he has a supporting family behind him as he’s chasing down a dream. I’m rooting for him and hope a team at the next level takes a chance on Bryan. He’d be a great guy in the clubhouse, can contribute both offensively and defensively, and I think it’d be a great story for independent baseball also.”

Gonzalez is also working hard to make that dream of moving up a reality for Hoover.

“Bryan will be 39 years old next season, but he has shown in 2015, that he has the talent to be on the same baseball field with any of them. He is right now in better shape physically than many guys in the league. He can be an asset to any team that gives him chance, and a great player in the clubhouse. This winter Bryan also participated in the Florida Indy Ball tryout and he out performed 32 other players there. He received the highest grading by all coaches in attendance.

“We are looking forward to sending great recommendations to the Can-Am, American Association, and Atlantic League teams to see if Bryan could get a shot to make one of the ball clubs.”

While his future is uncertain, Hoover knows he wants baseball to be a part of it. He has never given up his love for the game, and with his family’s tremendous support, he is ready to take the next step in his professional playing career wherever the road takes him.