For most young Little Leaguers, childhood dreams of playing for the local big league club go unfulfilled. For Washington, D.C. native L.J. Hoes, that dream of playing for the hometown team actually became a reality. Hoes grew up desperately wanting to play for the Baltimore Orioles, and the team plucked him out of high school in the third round of the 2008 draft.
The outfielder made his debut with the Orioles at the end of the 2012 season and played in two games. After playing only one game with the Orioles in 2013, Hoes was traded to the Houston Astros as part of the package for starting pitcher Bud Norris.
L.J. Hoes’ career with the Orioles was over after only five at-bats.
Hoes went to the Astros and immediately produced during the second half of the 2013 season. He slashed .287/.337/.371 in 46 games, hit his first big league home run, and stole seven bases. After that solid debut with the Astros, however, Hoes struggled to establish himself with the rebuilding franchise. He hit below .200 in 55 games during the 2014 season, and played in only eight games last year as the Astros made the postseason. The Astros waived Hoes following the season.
Now, after two-and-a-half years away, L.J. Hoes is coming home. Earlier this week, the Orioles swung a deal with the Astros to bring their former top prospect back to Baltimore.
“I’m very excited to be back,” Hoes said when describing the emotions he felt upon the completion of the trade. “This is my home. This is the team I grew up watching — my favorite baseball team.”
When the Astros placed Hoes on waivers, he knew the Orioles had interest in a reunion. When the deal became official, the 25-year-old outfielder was ready to return to Baltimore and begin making strides to establishing himself as a full-time big leaguer.
“I had talked to Adam Jones about the possibility of being teammates again, and getting back home. I’m excited to get back here and have the chance to play. Last time I was up with the Orioles, I didn’t really play much,” Hoes said. “I’ve always had those dreams and aspirations of playing in Camden Yards and wearing an Orioles jersey. I got the opportunity, but I wasn’t able to contribute the way I wanted. This is a second chance for me.”
During his initial tenure with the Orioles, Hoes developed a strong relationship with the Orioles coaching staff. As he prepares to return, he looks forward to continuing to learn and develop as a player.
“I’ve had a great relationship with Buck Showalter and outfield coach Wayne Kirby,” Hoes explained. “I was able to get familiar with the staff and build a good bond. It does mean a lot when they trade you away for a big-time starter, but it means even more when they want to bring you back just because they think you can help the Major League team. It’s an honor that the Orioles feel that way about me.”
As he came up with the Orioles, Hoes also developed a strong bond with perennial All-Star and face of the franchise Adam Jones. The veteran took the prospect under his wing every Spring Training as he climbed through the system. The Orioles very much feel like family to L.J. Hoes.
“It is definitely a family to me. I’m really close with Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. Adam’s like my big brother. When I got to the big leagues, he took me under his wing. I lived with him during Spring Training and trained with him during the offseason. Even when I was with the Astros, we were still able to work together during the winter,” Hoes said as he explained the family feel that comes with a return to the Orioles. “Then there are guys like Nolan Reimold, Henry Urrutia, J.J. Hardy, and Zach Britton — all guys who I’ve played with.”
Working with Adam Jones was an instrumental part in L.J. Hoes developing as a player and man.
“He’s the big brother I never had,” Hoes said. “He’s taken me under his wing and told me when I’ve done things right, but also when I need to clean things up a little bit. He’s been a mentor to me both on and off the field and helping me mature as a man. I’ve been bouncing up and down the past few years, and he’s helped me realize that you’ve got to take advantage of every chance you get.”
Even as he played with the Astros, Hoes kept tabs of the Orioles. When the Orioles clinched their division title in 2014, he was home celebrating the birth of his baby. Though he was no longer a member of the team, watching the celebration was still special. Even more special has been seeing the continued development of Machado and Schoop, former minor league roommates, into All-Star caliber players.
“I actually watched them clinch on TV,” Hoes said. “It was special, knowing how hard they had worked to get there. One of the main reasons they traded me was to make that division title possible. It was great seeing how happy the guys were. Now seeing Manny and Schoop develop into the players they are has been incredible. I knew they were going to be great, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. I’m very excited to get back to playing with them.”
“The aura of the locker room is great in Baltimore. Everyone has come up together and loves playing together. It just feels like every single player is ready to go out give everything for the guy next to him. It’s not about personal numbers; everyone knows their role and they’re going to go out on the field and take care of business.”
As the Orioles continue to find long-term replacements in the outfield corners for Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, L.J. Hoes could prove to be an excellent asset. He is a disciplined hitter who gets on base, avoids strikeouts, while playing great defense and bringing an element of speed to the basepaths. All of those skills were in short supply as the Orioles churned through left and right fielders in 2015. The return to the Orioles could be perfectly timed for L.J. Hoes, and the outfielder is reveling in his return home.
“Just going back, the fan base is amazing. I think it’s one of the best fan bases in baseball. Being able to come back and see the love that people still have for you as a player and, more importantly, as a person, makes you feel good about returning.”