April 4, 2019

Meet Kody Hoese, Tulane’s natural-born hitter from Indiana who’s moving up MLB Draft charts

By Christopher Dabe, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

One lesson Dave Griffin teaches most young baseball players is about the high failure rate in the sport. Most at-bats will result in outs, and strikeouts can be common.

With Kody Hoese, none of that applied. Not because he never failed — the current Tulane baseball standout made his share of outs. But one way he separated himself from many of the other 13-year-olds who came to Griffin’s 7,000-square foot hitting facility in Griffith, Indiana, was his temperament. He never got too down after failure. Never too excited after success.

It’s what made the current 21-year-old a rather bland interview subject after his three home runs in one game against Lamar this season. It’s what allows him to remain consistent enough at the plate to string together a 19-game hitting streak that lasted up to Sunday, before he posted another five hits and two home runs Tuesday against UNO.

Coaches who worked with Hoese in the past scan his 2019 stat line and note the 14 home runs against 11 strikeouts with a .400 batting average through 29 games and come away with the assessment that he’s having the kind of season that could make him a high-round MLB Draft pick this June.

Others tend to agree. Perfect Game put him on its Midseason All-American team released Wednesday. Last week, D1baseball.com listed him as the second-best third baseman in the country.

“That (home run-to-strikeout ratio) is a big number right there,” said Sean Laird, a former South Alabama baseball player who coached Hoese for two summers with the Indiana Bulls travel team. “That’s showing he can see the ball in the zone. He’s not getting himself out and when he gets his pitch, he’s crushing the ball.”

Hoese always had quick bat speed. In the 21 seasons Brian Jennings has coached baseball at Griffith High School, Hoese is one of two players to begin his freshman season as an every-game varsity starter. Coaches from then remember the high-school shortstop for his rail-thin body frame with quick wrists that made him a solid contact hitter. They all knew the power numbers would come as he grew into his body, which now measures at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds.

Griffin, who coached Hoese on a local travel team, likened Hoese as a child to five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for his rangy play at shortstop.

“He always had good hands,” said Griffin, the operator of the baseball facility that has three long hitting cages along with two pitching areas.

Whenever Hoese is home for the summer or holidays, he comes and goes as he pleases at the hitting facility. To enter, he uses the passcode on the keyless entry pad. Maybe a dozen or so other baseball players have that code, Griffin said.

“I’m a big proponent of hitting off the high tee, going the other way, staying up the middle,” said Griffin, who worked with Hoese for some of his early hitting lessons. “Not just getting in there to see how far you can hit it to left field or hit the top net all the time. I’m more about teaching guys how to hit and how to hit certain pitches and you know, staying within your swing.”

Hoese no longer has the high leg kick that helped him time-up the pitches he faced in high school. Previous coaches said how the quicker pitches Hoese faces in college caused him to eliminate any unneeded motion before and during his swing. He’s always had a level swing, and the home-run power came only as he put on more muscle through the years.

At Tulane, his home-run totals have gone up from zero as a freshman to five as a sophomore to now 14, which has him two behind Hunter Bishop of Arizona State for the national lead.

Sue Hoese, Kody’s mother, said people in the neighborhood remember seeing Kody and his dad, Dave, play baseball in the front yard when Kody was 3 years old. Dave played baseball in high school and spent one fall with the Indiana University baseball team but did not make the in-season roster.

Still, he passed along whatever he knew about baseball to the point where his son held a passion for the sport. Both parents said they never pressured Hoese into playing the sport. He also played basketball and made the high school varsity team as a freshman but decided after that first season to put all his athletic focus on baseball.

Hoese could have stayed near home and played in college at Purdue or Indiana. He also held an offer from Arkansas — going there would have put him in the the SEC with former Indiana Bulls teammate Zack Thompson, now a pitching ace for Kentucky — but he wanted to play most of his games in the far south like Laird did when he went from Kokomo, Indiana, to South Alabama.

His next move is likely to come this summer. The Kansas City Royals selected Hoese in the 30th round last June as a draft-eligible sophomore, but with two seasons of college eligibility remaining, he remained unsigned.

Certainly, Hoese has stayed on the radar of the Royals and just about every other professional baseball organization. Multiple observers believe Hoese will be a top-10-round selected player this June, with one assessment putting him in the pool of sandwich picks between the first and second rounds. It’s all guesswork, of course, as draft positions in baseball are sometimes based on things other than talent.

Much of that draft positioning will be based on what Hoese does over the next couple months. He’s the regular No. 2 hitter in the lineup and an every-game third baseman. He’s a player Tulane coach Travis Jewett never has to consider leaving out of the lineup.

“Probably a future major leaguer,” the coach said.

Whatever happens next will come in due time. Just like everything else in Hoese’s baseball career, it has occurred with patience and perspective. Being patient and staying calm, it’s what he’s best at.

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