Tag Archives: Can-Am

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.”

bryan hoover1
(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.

Speeding Up the Sport. Should Baseball Have to Pick Up the Pace?

This season, Major League Baseball and their newly established “pace of game committee” are using the Arizona Fall League (AFL) to implement new rules (or enforce rules that have otherwise been ignored in the past) that are designed to speed up the game.  The AFL is being used as a “try-out” to see if these rules would be the correct thing to put into place throughout baseball and the MLB.  As baseball has grown throughout the years, so has the average time of a game.  This year, the average game time was 3 hours and 2 minutes compared to just 2 hours and 33 minutes in 1981.  The ultimate goal is to quicken the pace and have games that end under 3 hours again.

These pace of game rules include:

Three “Timeout” limit.  Managers, coaches, and catchers are only allowed three visits to the mound during the game (excluding pitching changes or injuries.)

No-pitch intentional walks. Managers signal to the umpire for an intentional walk, and the batter takes 1st base without a pitch being thrown.

Batter Box Rule. The hitter must have one foot inside the batter’s box throughout the entire at bat unless there is a foul ball, wild pitch, pass ball, or a pitch that forces the batter outside the box, or if the hitter is granted time by the umpire.

2:30 pitching change. The max time for a pitching change is two and a half minutes.

2:05 inning break. The max time between innings is two minutes and 5 seconds.  The batter must be in the box at 1:45 or the umpire can call a strike. Also, the umpire can call a ball if the pitcher throws after the 2:05 mark.

20 second rule. (used at Salt River Field only.)  There is a 20 second clock posted in the dugouts as well as behind homeplate and in the outfield to prevent the pitchers from taking too much time. This is being used as a modified version of rule 8.04 that requires a pitcher to deliver a pitch within 12 seconds after receiving the ball with the bases unoccupied.

The rules that are being put into place in the AFL are nothing new.  Most of these rules have been used or discussed for future use in some capacity in the independent Atlantic League.

Along with the batter’s box rule, 12 second pitch rule, the no-pitch intentional walk, and the three timeouts, the Atlantic league also has rules to:

Enforce the rule book strike zone. Umpires must be consistent and use the strike zone listed in Rule 2.00 which states that the strike zone stretches from the hollow beneath the kneecap to the midpoint between the shoulder and batter’s waist.

Reduce the number of warm up pitches from 8 to 6.

Pinch Runners for catchers.  Pinch runners must replace catchers as soon as they reach base to ensure that catchers are suited up in time for the next half inning.

Extra innings are also being shortened around the independent leagues.  The American Association is looking to implement an extra inning rule that has already been in place by the Can-Am league.  After 10 innings, the batter before the leadoff hitter will be placed on second base.  The inning would then precede as normal. (If the runner scores, the runner will be given a R and the hitter batting him in would get an RBI, but the run will not be charged against the pitcher’s ERA.)  A version of this rule is already used in the World Baseball Classic and with the International Baseball Federation.

All of these rules are being established to speed up the game and pace of play.  Do you think these are good ideas or do you think it will ruin the sport?