Golden Spikes Award Spotlight: Kody Hoese
By By Walter Villa, D1Baseball.com
Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese leads Division I with 21 home runs, but his success this season is beyond surprising.
In fact, it almost never happened.
Hoese, now 21, hit just .213 with no homers in 44 games as a freshman, most of them at shortstop. As a sophomore, he moved to third base full-time and improved his OPS from .566 to .803 with five homers. He was draft eligible as a sophomore that year, and the Kansas City Royals selected him in the 35th round.
“It was a tough decision – I was pretty close to signing,” Hoese said. “Playing pro baseball has always been my dream.”
But Hoese – a Finance major and the son of an accountant – crunched the numbers and decided that the Royals’ offer wasn’t royal enough.
He came back to Tulane and has simply exploded, hitting .417/.500/.881, ranking second in the nation with a 1.381 OPS. He leads the American Athletic Conference in all those and many other categories, and he ranks among the national leaders, too.
Hoese, a righthanded hitter, also ranks among the nation’s top 75 prospects, which would peg him as a top-three-rounds player. But don’t tell that to Tulane coach Travis Jewett.
“First round,” Jewett said without hesitation when asked about Hoese. “He’s proving to everyone he’s a major league talent, and those guys go in first round.
“Someone will get a heck of a player and an even better person. He’s a humble kid who doesn’t get too high or too low.”
Hoese – pronounced HO-zee – is from Griffith, Ind., which is in the Chicago metropolitan area. He grew up a Cubs, Bears and Bulls fan, and he sprouted from 6-foot to 6-4 between the eighth grade and his sophomore year of high school.
Like a lot of Indiana kids, Hoese played basketball, and he was good enough to start on the Griffith High varsity as a freshman. But it was after that season that Hoese decided to quit basketball to devote himself to baseball, and that is yet another decision that has worked out well for him.
Hoese went on to star at shortstop for Griffith, parlaying his high school success into an offer from Tulane.
“Kody loved the facilities and the warm weather,” said his father, Dave.
However, shortly after Hoese signed with Tulane, the coach who recruited him, David Pierce, took the top job with the Texas Longhorns, taking his top assistants with him, Phil Miller and Sean Allen.
Still, Hoese never thought about transferring, and Jewett, who was hired about two weeks later, is grateful.
“I didn’t recruit him, but thank goodness someone did,” Jewett said. “I don’t know if anybody thought he would be the player he has turned out to be, but I’m happy he’s here.”
Tulane (26-14, 8-3), which is in second place in its conference, wouldn’t be where it is without Hoese, who has hit in 38 of 40 games. The exceptions happened on Feb. 24, when he went 0-for-4 against Ole Miss; and on March 31, when he went 0-for-2 with three walks against Cincinnati.
With 16 regular-season games remaining – plus the playoffs – Hoese is already seventh in school history on the single-season home run chart. With three more homers, he would be alone in second place as he pursues the school record-holder, Jason Sparks, who hit 30 in 1998.
Hoese has also done some good things without a bat in his hands, including a .959 fielding percentage (just four errors) and four stolen bases in four tries.
“There’s nothing he can’t do,” Jewett said. “He has the courage to handle the hot smash, the athleticism to field the ball on the run and the arm to throw from any angle.”
Given that he was a shortstop in high school, perhaps that athleticism defensively is not surprising now that he’s at third base.
But how he has transformed himself offensively is more complex.
For starters, Hoese is now able to spend more time playing baseball outdoors, and that has quickened his progress. Back home in Griffith, due to the frigid winters, Hoese’s seasons would start in March. He and his teammates would do a lot work with indoor batting cages, but typically the first popup Hoese would field would come on opening day of the high school season.
Secondly, Hoese has gotten stronger since enrolling at Tulane, gaining about 25 pounds of muscle, with room for 20 more quite comfortably. He currently weighs 200 pounds on his 6-4 frame.
Lastly, Hoese has just gotten smarter about baseball.
“Kody has identified how his swing works,” Jewett said. “He is using deductive reasoning to understand how pitchers are trying to get him out. He is finding the bottom and the middle of the ball and striking it with force.”
On most nights, there are 20 to 25 scouts in attendance at Hoese’s games. His decision to return to school for one more year has proven correct so far, and Jewett said the secret sauce has been hard work.
“He is such an invested kid, working on his swing and taking grounders all the time,” Jewett said. “He has a good plan when he gets to the plate, and his frame is so good.
“You kind of knew his power would come. It’s just shown up sooner than we thought.”