Spokane, WA. - Jared Hoying seemed to be on the fast track to the majors after winning the Northwest League MVP with the Spokane Indians, but it would take him an additional six seasons in the minor leagues before he reached baseball's peak.
A 10th round pick out of the University of Toledo (Ohio) in 2010, Hoying was sensational for the Indians that summer, hitting .325 with 28 extra-base hits and 20 steals. He was the most outstanding player on a truly talented team that featured nine future big leaguers and led Spokane to within a game of winning the NWL Championship.
Hoying wasn't able to carry that momentum over to the 2011 season though, as he hit just .236 in 116 games for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A+) after skipping over the Low-A Hickory Crawdads. He split 2012 between Myrtle Beach and Frisco (AA) and bounced back in a big way with a .276 average and 17 steals. Hoying reached Round Rock (AAA) the following year and despite back-to-back 20 HR/20 SB seasons for the Express in 2014 and 2015, still found himself looking for his first taste of big league action.
That chance finally came in the 2016 season as he was called up to join the Texas Rangers in late May. It might have taken the hard-working Hoying longer than he hoped - but he had arrived.
"Jared has earned this," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters following Hoying's MLB debut. "It was an easy recommendation for our guys to make."
He picked up his first MLB hit on May 28 and his first MLB RBI on May 31 before being sent back to the minors in mid-June. Jared would return twice more to the Rangers that season and even got the chance to pitch an inning in relief against the Twins in a blowout loss (he allowed just one run on a "knuckleball" that averaged between 59-62 mph). Hoying had the opportunity to go elsewhere following the 2016 season but he chose to return to the Rangers, despite the potential to get more playing time with another organization.
Jared started this season in AAA again but was called-up to take over in centerfield after Carlos Gomez hit the disabled list. Hoying didn't waste any time reacclimating to the majors, going 4-for-4 including his first MLB home run against the Phillies on May 16 in Arlington. He spent the bulk of this season with Round Rock, providing his usual mix of power and speed, but was recently called up by for the stretch run as the Rangers battle for a wild-card spot.
The Indians caught up with Jared to talk about his time in Spokane, his journey to the big leagues, and what it feels like to hit that first major league home run.
Spokane Indians (SI): What is your best memory for your time in Spokane?
Jared Hoying (JH): My best memory had to have been how awesome and truly genuine the fans were! It always seemed like I could have a conversation with anyone in the stands and immediately feel comfortable. I have always said that Spokane is the perfect introduction to professional baseball. The park is always packed throughout the summer and everyone cares about the team. Spokane will always have a special place in my heart.
SI: The 2010 team you played on had a great season and just missed out on the NWL Championship. What made that squad so special?
JH: We had a great team that year with numerous future big league players on the roster. Not only did we have great talent but we had great team chemistry. We all got along and all we cared about was having fun and winning. I made a lot of lifelong friends after that season. I still think about that final game sometimes, would have loved to have ended that season with a championship.
SI: Do you still have your Northwest League MVP trophy somewhere?
JH: Yep, still have the trophy. It is now currently at my parents house, someday whenever I build a house of my own I'll have it hanging somewhere in my office or basement.
SI: You're originally from Ohio. What did you think of the Northwest?
JH: I absolutely loved the Northwest, and to this day still love going up there. The weather is amazing and the views are awesome wherever you are. I always get excited when we travel to Seattle just to be back there.
SI: It took seven seasons until you got your first big league call-up. What kept you motivated all that time?
JH: "No regrets" is what I always tell myself. The last thing I wanted to happen was for me to be 40 years old and regret something I did or a decision that I made when I was younger. Granted there were many times in those seven years in the minor leagues that were pretty grueling, but no matter how hard it got or how down I was on myself in the back of my mind, I always told myself just keep grinding. No regrets.
SI: What's the biggest difference between playing in the minors and the big leagues?
JH: On the field thankfully it's the same game. The game just gets faster and faster each level you go up. Off the field is where it is much different. No more eight-hour bus rides thru the middle of the night; we fly charter now and leave as soon as we get to the airport. Food is so much better. No more peanut butter and jelly or cold meat sandwiches before the game. We are blessed to have team cooks who can whip up pretty much anything. The media is around a lot more before and after the game, where as in the minors you only see someone from the media here and there. Lastly the crowd size and noise is pretty impressive. Going from a few thousand fans to thirty thousand or more is pretty awesome to play in front of.
SI: What was it like to hit you first big league home run?
JH: Pretty special moment and something I will never forget. After hitting quite a few in the minor leagues there is nothing like hitting one in the big leagues. Fortunately I was lucky enough to get the ball from a fan. That ball will have a special spot in the house someday.
SI: What piece of advice would you give to young baseball players?
JH: Just have fun and enjoy it! Baseball is such a hard game not only physically but mentally. If you truly love the game you will be able work hard at it and work through all of the good times and bad.
SI: Toughest MLB pitcher you've faced?
JH: Probably Justin Verlander. He's one of those pitchers who knows exactly what he is doing on the mound, and can make you feel off balance the whole at bat.
SI: You had the opportunity to move to a different organization this past season - what made you decide to stay with the Texas Rangers?
JH: Kind of a gut feeling. I really like everyone in the organization from the coaches all the way up to the guys in the front office. I just felt comfortable here and having a young child went from deciding what is best for me to what is best for my family.
SI: You mentioned your new child, Carly. How has she changed your life?
JH: Little Carly has changed my life in so many ways. I just can't get enough of her smiles and giggles. It's so nice to come home to her after a ball game knowing she doesn't care if I went 4 for 4 or 0 for 4.
SI: What do you want to do after your baseball career is finished?
JH: Can't say I have really thought too much about that. I do some electrical work in the off season as a part time job, and enjoy doing that. So who knows maybe I will be a full time electrician someday.
SI: Favorite Spokane mascot - OTTO, Doris or Recycle Man?
JH: Tough decision but I'm going to have to go with OTTO. He really knows how to get the crowd going.
SI: Anything else you'd like to tell Spokane Indians fans?
JH: Thanks for being awesome and taking care of us while us ball players spend the summer there. Spokane truly is an unbelievable place and I will always remember how much fun I had in the great Northwest!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.