When LJ Hoes received a callup to the Bowie Baysox on May 23, it was more than a just a promotion. It was also a homecoming.
The 21-year-old outfield prospect was born and raised in Bowie, Md. The Baysox played their first season at Prince George's Stadium in 1994, providing the young baseball fanatic with an opportunity to see Double-A action on a regular basis.
"I came to a lot of games here as a kid," said Hoes, speaking before Friday's game against the Erie SeaWolves. "They used to have a 'wear your jersey and come in for free' [promotion], so I used to come here a lot with my teammates. And my father and I used to come out here on Sunday afternoons and see the Sunday games. ... Now I have the opportunity to play here and represent my hometown and represent the Baysox. It's a great thing."
And Hoes has represented his hometown more than adequately, hitting .309 with six home runs and 16 stolen bases over 94 games. (He began the season with Class A Advanced Frederick.) In the process, he's helped solidify himself as MLB.com's No. 5 prospect in the Baltimore organization.
"There are a lot of ups and downs, that's how baseball is," he said. "Sometimes you're going to struggle, sometimes you're not going to struggle. ... But to know I'm capable of playing 135 games [in a season] and playing at such a high level is a great thing."
Hoes' ultimate goal is, of course, to be with the Orioles. He was a fan of the team growing up, so it was especially meaningful when Baltimore selected him in the third round of the 2008 Draft.
"In high school, I played for an Orioles scout team, in front of area scouts for the Orioles and stuff like that," said Hoes. "So I knew I had the opportunity to be drafted by the Orioles, but I didn't know if it was going to happen. Once my name came across the computer and I saw that the Orioles had drafted me, it was just a tremendous feeling."
Not surprisingly, Hoes' local connections have made him a sought-out figure in the Baysox clubhouse.
"I get a lot of [questions like] 'What is there to do? What is there not to do?' Stuff like that," he said. "Sometimes the umpires will come in and ask me what places there are to eat at, because a lot of teams and umpires stay in [neighboring] Annapolis. I know some good places."
And when time allows, nothing beats a trip to our nation's capital.
"If you've never been to [Washington] D.C., go out there and see the sights," Hoes said. "I like to go there in the off days and just walk around. I'll go to the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and just walk down around the monuments."
Long ball beacon: One of the more distinctive aspects of the Prince George's Stadium experience is the orange-and-white-striped lighthouse located down the right-field line. Whenever a Baysox player hits a home run, the lighthouse illuminates while the sound of a foghorn blasts throughout the stadium.
The life aquatic: The "Bay" in the Baysox name is the Chesapeake, located about 15 miles from the stadium. Seeking to strengthen their connection with this namesake body of water, the team partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Trust and unveiled a new "Pitching Fish" alternate jersey (worn during Friday home games). After an extensive "Name the Fish" competition, this baseball-playing aquatic vertebrae was named "Rocko."
"[Rocko] is a combination of the rockfish or striped bass and the oyster toadfish," the team explained in a news release. "Those two species were selected because both thrive in a healthy Bay."