On a warm August night in Baltimore, a father looks on as his son hits batting practice surrounded by his teammates. Although the father's days as his son's head coach are long gone, he can't help himself from blurting out the occasional tip in hopes that his son will use it to his advantage later that night.
This father-son dynamic on the baseball diamond is one shred of normality on an otherwise surreal night for the Hoes family, who have seen their entire lives turned upside down in the course of two days. Just 28 hours before he hit batting practice in front of his dad, the son, L.J., was traded from his hometown Orioles to the Astros, who happened to be in Baltimore for a series at Camden Yards. In exchange for Hoes and pitching prospect Josh Hader, the Orioles acquired starter Bud Norris, who was one of the top starting pitchers available on the trade market this summer.
It's too often that we think of players involved in trades as mere chess pieces moving around for the sake of our own entertainment. We forget that behind these transactions are real people with real families and real emotions due to the drastic changes that a trade brings.
This is especially true in regards to L.J. Hoes, who was an Orioles' season ticket holder since his days in Little League. The 23-year old went to high school just 40 minutes away from Camden Yards, and instantly forewent his college scholarship at the prestigious University of North Carolina once he was drafted by the O's in the third round of the 2008 draft.
For L.J. and his dad Jerome, the chance to be a part of their hometown organization was something that neither took for granted. After spending almost five years in the Orioles' minor league system, L.J. finally got the call to the majors in 2012, and appeared in two September games at Camden Yards. He grounded out in his only at-bat on the year, and spent the first four months of 2013 with Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .304 with 3 HR and 40 RBI in 99 games. He got the call to the majors on July 27th, and got the start in the team's loss to the Red Sox the next day. As Jerome Hoes explained, the day of his son's first major league start was one that the family had been anticipating for a long time.
"There was the elation that we had on Saturday when [L.J.] called me to tell me that he got called up to his hometown team, the Orioles, and was gonna be called to the majors," Jerome said. "He said there was a possibility that he’d be starting on Sunday, so we were very excited about that. Then to come down here and see him walk on the field on Sunday afternoon with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis for the Star-Spangled Banner, I practically had tears in my eyes because I realized that my son’s dream had finally materialized."
Just three days later, Jerome watched eagerly as the trade deadline approached, and became suspicious that something may happen involving L.J. once some other moves were announced.
"On Wednesday afternoon, getting home from work and hearing all the trade rumors and stuff, seeing that Justin Maxwell from Houston had been traded to Kansas City, in my mind I had a suspicion that L.J. might be getting moved because I knew that the Orioles were one of the players for Bud Norris."
About an hour and a half before the trade deadline, reports surfaced that Hoes was indeed on the move for Norris, and the outfielder started to hear whispers on social media and television that something may be going on.
"Yeah, I did," L.J. admitted when asked if he had heard of the deal on Twitter before the team notified him. "The Orioles were finalizing the deal and stuff. You know how social media is these days, one thing’s there and now it’s on the social media and everyone knows about it. I talked to Buck and Dan and those guys, and they’re great people. I had a great time in that organization and I have a lot of friends over there, but now I’m just excited and looking forward to a new future in Houston."
Jerome revealed that his initial reaction to the news was one of sadness, due to his family's strong ties to the community and Orioles' organization.
"Once I found out that [L.J.] had been traded, it was kind of somber for both of us," Jerome said. "We talked a little bit and realized that the opportunity here to maybe play in the playoffs or the opportunity to learn from people like Adam Jones and Buck Showalter had finally passed us by."
With the dreams of consistent playing time with his hometown team suddenly gone, Hoes realized that the trade would give him the chance to compete at the major league level on an everyday basis. He joins a young, talented core of players in Houston who have mostly been acquired in trades similar to the Norris deal, and was settling in with his new team on his second day as an ex-Oriole.
"It feels good to be an Astro. We have a great young nucleus here, it’s a great opportunity for me to come over here and play with these guys," L.J. said. "I’m just excited about the new opportunity. Yesterday was definitely a whirlwind, I told my family after the game that my mind was racing the whole game, so I didn’t really get the chance to settle in. Today, when I got back to my routine, I feel good. I feel like good things are about to happen, it’s all about keep working and keeping at it."
Jerome's familiar pre-game advice seemed to work for L.J., who notched his first major league hit against none other than the pitcher he was traded before just a day earlier-- Bud Norris. Jerome looked on as his son took the turn at first base after his first major league hit at Camden Yards, just as he had likely envisioned it throughout L.J.'s Little League career. The only difference between Jerome's dream and reality was the uniform, of course.
Jones, the Orioles' unofficial captain and personal mentor to Hoes, was happy to see his "little brother" get his first major league hit in front of his hometown crowd.
"I’m glad," Jones said after the game. "He’s going to get an opportunity to play over there. He’s like a little brother to me so I told him to take advantage of this opportunity because it’s once in a lifetime and turn up."
Read more MLB Daily Dish:
- Orioles acquire Bud Norris from Astros
- Royals acquire Justin Maxwell from Astros
- Mariners "well-positioned" for run at Ellsbury
- White Sox sign Tommy Manzella
- 2013 MLB August Waiver Tracker