Tag Archives: Eddie Gonzalez

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.

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Are We in for Another Summer of New Indy Leagues?

Last off season, we highlighted many independent leagues that were looking to start in 2015.  First up were the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL) and the East Coast Baseball League (ECBL). Then came word of one (and then two) leagues in the Ozark, Missouri area – The Heartland of America Baseball League and The Ozarks Pro Baseball League.

Sadly, none of them were able to have an entire season in their original form. During the summer, we recapped what happened to each;  The MRPBL played for a couple of weeks but ultimately folded. The ECBL never played a game, but it was resurrected by one of the team’s owners as the North Country Baseball League. They played a full season and had some players promoted although there were still many issues to overcome due to how quickly it had to be put together.  And Ozark, Missouri didn’t see any professional baseball games this summer as neither league could work through problems to field teams.

To say the least, this summer was not a good one for independent baseball from a new league standpoint.

But as the temperatures are starting to drop, the off season and rumors of new independent leagues are just heating up.

So far, we have heard of four leagues working on debuting in 2016 – The United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL), The Empire League, The Desert League, and the U.S. Baseball League.

Last month, we had a Q & A with the USPBL’s Executive Director of Baseball Operations which you can find HERE. The league is looking to field three teams that will all play in the same stadium (that is currently being built) in Utica, Michigan.

The Empire League is a continuation of the North Country Baseball League. Eddie Gonzalez, who was an essential part of the NCBL, will operate as the Empires League’s Director of Baseball and Business Operations. The league will be returning to Old Orchard Beach, Maine and Watertown, New York as well as bringing new teams to Albany and Rome, New York. We are working on getting an interview with Eddie soon!

The Desert League and the U.S. Baseball League have been quieter about their 2016 plans.

The Desert League will be looking to field teams in Arizona and California for a season that runs from August through October. Their website states that:

The Desert League of Professional Baseball is a fall Independent League that will begin its inaugural season in August. The season will run from August until October with each team playing about 60 games.  All of our players will be paid.  No player will pay to play in our league.  This is true professional baseball.

We are catering to the first year pro player.  Our goal is to help players get their foot in the door of professional baseball, there for we have adopted roster rules that require each team to carry 12 rookies. If you are looking for a place to start your professional career look no further.

I have been in talks with members of the Desert League staff and will release more information as well as a Q & A when the league has officially set their plans.

And finally, the U.S. Baseball League is looking to bring baseball to Ozark, Missouri the right way. In August, we reported that Price Cutter Park in Ozark had been purchased. It appears as though that will be the future home of the U.S. Baseball League. They are working hard to get the field ready for baseball in the near future. We will also have more information when it is released as well as a Q & A with the league before the season begins.

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