L.J. Hoes’s first two minor league games in his home county created quite a stir, with 30 friends and family showing up Tuesday night and 15 in attendance Wednesday night. Among those at the second game were several former AAU basketball teammates that included ex-Georgetown point guard Chris Wright (also a high school teammate at St. John’s) and Maryland linebacker Kenny Tate (DeMatha).
“It’s definitely good being at home, being able to play in front of my family and friends and have their support,” Hoes said after his Bowie Baysox beat Richmond, 3-2, on Wednesday night at Prince George’s Stadium. He was born in Bowie, grew up in Mitchellville and has had a home in Bowie for the past year.
Hoes, a 21-year-old outfielder-second baseman, has played in left field through his first 10 games with the Baysox. He was on a 6-for-12 tear in his first three games with Bowie during a road swing — after playing three games, all on the road, last season for the team — but has gone 2 for his next 25. That’s somewhat deceiving as he ripped a line drive and a hard-hit groundball Wednesday night. In the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s 4-2 win, he doubled and scored the go-ahead run from second after the third baseman’s throw pulled the first baseman off the bag.
“He’s playing really good baseball and swinging the bat well,” Bowie Manager Gary Kendall said. “He ran into some tough luck tonight, [but] he’s doing all the little things.”
For Hoes, who hit .278 at high-Class A Frederick last season despite a bout with mononucleosis, the promotion to Bowie came later than he had hoped. He started the year back with the Keys and had a tough time at the plate (.241 with a .297 on-base percentage and .342 slugging percentage in 158 at-bats), but he showed progress where Baltimore Orioles officials hoped he would.
“Starting the year back in Frederick was very disappointing because I thought I did enough to be up here at the start of the year — I hit around .280 and cut my errors in half,” Hoes said. “But they told me to work on a few things — turning the double play at second base and getting better at driving pitches, being patient at the plate and hitting for more power.
“It was definitely good for me to go back to Frederick. I dealt with some adversity there. I wasn’t doing as good as I wanted to do, but I still was able to fight through it and get up here.”
A third-round pick in 2008, Hoes signed for a $490,000 bonus to ply professional baseball instead of attend North Carolina. This past offseason, he was rated as the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect by Baseball America. He lives with his father and Xavier Avery, the Baysox’ center fielder and Orioles’ No. 3 prospect. He’s comfortable there and in Bowie’s outfield.
“I played center field in high school and pretty much my whole life,” said Hoes, who also pitched at St. John’s. “But there are still adjustments from high school to pro ball. Guys are a lot stronger. They make better contact; they drive balls a lot more.”
Kendall said Hoes will play some infield for Bowie, but that he can help the most in the outfield at this point. He praised the right-handed hitter’s ability to make contact, usually avoid being fooled and to make adjustments. Kendall also has been impressed with Hoes’s accurate arm. ”We’re lucky to have him,” Kendall said.