Salisbury, MD - During the offseason, the Shorebirds will post transcripts of interviews with past players. This week, we caught up with pitcher Matt Hobgood to discuss his busy offseason. In part one of the conversation, he talks about his 2013 season, the importance of 2014, his mission trip to South Africa and more. Shorebirds radio broadcaster Bret Lasky conducted the interview.
You can follow Matt on Twitter: @MattHobgood
Quick Background: Hobgood, 23, was selected by the Orioles with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 First Year Player Draft. He pitched for the Shorebirds in 2010 and went 3-7 with a 4.40 ERA. After pitching limited innings in 2011 and missing the entire 2012 season due to injury, Hobgood reemerged with the Shorebirds in 2013. He posted a 7-3 mark with a 3.71 ERA as a reliever before earning a promotion to Frederick.
Bret: Wrap up the 2013 season - how do you think you performed?
Matt: I thought it went as well as it could have possibly gone. Aside from better numbers statistically, but from Spring Training that was never the goal. Brian Graham and all the Orioles brass told me that they just wanted me to be healthy. I remember in May with Delmarva, I had that game against Hickory where I was 93-95 (miles per hour with the fastball) and touched 97 and that was the first game with the Orioles organization where I have shown that type of velocity. So that was kind of a moral victory for me to be able to come out and do that. There is plenty stuff that I needed to work on and did work on. I had some rough outings both in Delmarva and Frederick, but I thought overall having only pitched a few innings in 2011 and nothing in 2012, I thought it was a very successful year overall.
Bret: How are your offseason workouts going?
Matt: I started in October. Last year I was with the Bundy's (Dylan and Bobby) in Oklahoma. I split time between Oklahoma and Arizona at API and now I am full-time in California at API. Things are going good. I know what I need to do on the physical side and the nutritional side where I need to come in at. Last year, I came in at just under 260 pounds with 11 percent body fat and that was my best year yet. I really pushed myself as hard as I could to physically come back in shape and that is what I want to do now for next year. This past year was like a rehab year for me and this coming year is my 6th season and I really feel like it's going to be an opportunity for me to take some big steps in the organization.
Bret: How important is the 2014 season for you?
Matt: For me personally, I don't know how other people view it, I think it is going to be the biggest year yet. Last year was a big year in how the arm was going to respond coming off shoulder surgery and all that comes with that. Now that I have shown that I'm healthy and I've shown some of what I'm capable of physically with my velocity, now it's time to go out there and get people out, which is my goal for next year. If I pitch well, the rest will all fall in place.
Bret: You went on a trip to South Africa recently - tell us about that.
Matt: I was at home in October and I started going through my backpack cleaning out stuff from September that I brought home and I found my passport. Remember that incident with Kyle Hudson when he tried to go to Toronto (when he was called up to the Orioles) and he didn't have a passport so they (Orioles) made everyone get a passport. Two days later, a friend of mine who actually does our bible study in Spring Training, Mickey Weston, called and said 'hey would you like to go on a missions trip to South Africa?' I felt that me finding the passport a couple days before was kind of my answer. I said to myself 'hey, this is the trip for you, you've got the time'. I wanted to go on one for two years so I finally got my opportunity.
What we did out there was we went and met up with four or five different groups of kids ranging from ages eight to 18. We taught them fundamentals (of baseball). South Africa is obviously so big into soccer and rugby, those are the two main sports. There really aren't any baseball fields over there. So, we just wanted to go and shed some light on not only baseball but share Jesus with these kids after and talk to them about how he has changed our lives. It was really a great opportunity to also go and see how good we still have it over here in America even though there are a lot of people living paycheck-to-paycheck. There was one guy when it rains, his house floods and his bed gets all wet and his stuff gets wet. People will break down billboards to have a makeshift home. We think we have it rough as minor leaguers, but we never have to worry about food for the most part, we've always got a bed we need to sleep in and this goes for most people. I think it was an eye opener to see how good we have it over here in America.
I got to pet and kiss a lion. I had a cheetah licking my head which I was not expecting. I was not expecting that. There were so many different things I got to see and so many different people I got to meet. Kurt Holiday, a guy on Twitter, I got to stay with him and he is a big Astros fan so he was kind of pumped that I got to meet Appel (Mark - he was the the first overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Astros).
The whole experience was just awesome. For me personally, that God would open up that door was just pretty sweet.
Bret: Is this something you may do again?
Matt: I'd love to do it again. I was talking to one of the coaches. I know a lot of the guys (fellow minor leaguers) throw away gear - gloves, bats that they aren't using after the season. I know I do. It's my goal next year to try and bring back as many suitcases full of stuff as I can for those kids. Even if it is baseballs or gloves or shipping some bats out. It's very hard for them to sometimes buy stuff from America because their credit cards aren't the same and they aren't accepted online. Some of the teams we visited were a little more civilized and then there were other teams where we went and we were playing on a soccer field and some of these kids just don't have anything. One of the coaches we met, he just tries to crash at people's houses wherever he can because he is homeless. It's crazy how little some of the people over there have.
Lord willing, I want to go back next year and I want to tell people that are interested in going. I mean, who doesn't want to teach baseball to little kids? Yea, I would love to go back next year and get as much stuff as I can and resources for them next year so they can continue to grow to make baseball a sport that is relevant over there.
Bret: You went to a professional athletes conference recently - how was that?
Matt: We went to PAO, which is short for Pro Athletes Outreach, they do both baseball, football and basketball conferences for pro athletes. Obviously, on the baseball side, you will have major league and minor league guys. They bring all believers together and then there are even some people who maybe don't know Jesus or want to experience that and they are welcome to the conference as well. There was a series of different preachers that we were able to go and listen to. We would have morning bible study and we'd have small groups later in the day. We were also staying 100 yards from the beach, which wasn't too bad.
It's just an opportunity for guys in the offseason to come and here some really good teaching and also be able to know that all the people in that room - even if they are major leaguers were one time minor leaguers and it's a cool opportunity to be able to talk to them about different aspects of the game. Had the chance to talk to people about my walk with Christ and strengthen that.
It was in Florida and it was 75 degrees there so it was amazing.
Part two of the Matt Hobgood interview will come out later in the week!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.