Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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He was disappointed by his stats, but former Ft. Loramie standout Jared Hoying used his first full season in professional baseball as a measuring stick and learning experience as he prepares for spring training next month.

(Ed. Note:  During the course of the year Press Pros receives numerous requests to republish some of the more popular feature stories from the previous year, including this from last December on Ft. Loramie’s Jared Hoying.  At that time Jared knew he would be returning to Class A Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to start the 2012 minor league season, but his primary goal was to get off to such a start as to be promoted before the end of the year.  That goal was realized last week…as Jared was called up to the Frisco Roughriders, the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in the Texas League.  With appreciation for those who’ve written to ask about Jared, we’re happy to share his story again, along with our congratulations on another baseball dream being realized.)

When we first wrote about former Ft. Loramie standout Jared Hoying as a baseball professional in the fall of 2010 he was on top of his own personal baseball world.

A month removed from his first professional season Hoying had finished as the top hitter in the Texas Rangers organization, major leagues through rookie ball, having hit .325 for the Rangers’ rookie league team in Spokane, Washington.

Bursting with optimism after a spring training promotion to the club’s high-A team in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina last spring, Hoying faced the 2011 season with nothing short of  visions of grandeur and more success.

But success in professional baseball can be fleeting.  The game is fickle.

The 70-game dream season in Spokane became a 140-game nightmare marathon in Myrtle Beach.

The charm of being a professional tarnished with the challenge of being a professional and the inherent expectations.  Baseball for the first in his life…became a job.

100-degree heat, 10-hour bus rides, personal and organizational expectations took its toll.  His average from 2010 dropped a hundred points, to .236.  By season’s end, for the first time in his life Jared Hoying was ready to call it a year…ready for a break from baseball.

“I was worn out,”  he said last week.  “I was disappointed with the season I had.  Realistically, I probably set my expectations too high.  I really thought I would go to Myrtle Beach and pick right up where I left off in Spokane.”

His expectations took a backseat to baseball reality.

“The competition was very different from rookie ball.  In high-A you see guys who’ve been around the game for three or four years.  I’m 22 years old and some of them were 26, 27.  They’re more experienced and they knew what they were doing.

“You see pitchers throwing 98 miles per hour.  I faced Stephen Strasburg, the guy from the Washington Nationals.  That guy just throws gas and that unbelievable curveball.  He struck me out on a pitch like I’d never seen before.  It was a long season and a big adjustment.”

140 games over a five-month season is an adjustment, the most Hoying had ever attempted to play in a season.

“Huge is the only way I can describe it,”  he says now with a smile.  “You see guys lifting all winter and they tell you they’re lifting to be stronger in August.  Great, I thought, but I never knew what they meant.  But I found out.  August comes along, with the heat and the fatigue that comes from playing that many games without time off and you just hit the wall.  You know it’s coming, but it just wears you out.”

Glamorous to think about, the reality of playing professional baseball is something else.

It’s a grind.  You go to the ballpark everyday with the understanding that your job and your aspirations for a career are on the line with every play in the field or every at bat.  It becomes a mind game, a state of mind…of reconciling failure and putting 0 for 4 into perspective.  The harder you try to get ahead the farther behind you can fall.

“From the year I had in 2010 I probably had my expectations too high,”  he admits.  “Realistically, they probably weren’t gonna’ happen.  I thought I could, and before you know it you go 0 for 4, 1 for 8, 2 for 20, and 6 for 30.  You get into a rut and you start to press.  You say to yourself…tonight I’ve got to go 4 for 4 to make up.

“You haven’t hit a home run in a month and the wind’s blowing out when you get to the park.  You start thinking I’ve got to hit a couple of home runs tonight and take advantage.  It just doesn’t work like that.  You have to learn to be realistic about things, be content to compete, and just do your best.”

The low minors are about making adjustments…to the game of baseball, yes, but also to life on the road, managing yourself off the field as well as on.  You have the same issues in baseball as you do back home…money, bills, people, and people from home who may not understand that for the first time in your life baseball is a job.

“It gets hard to keep your focus, especially by the end of the year,”  says Hoying.  “I knew I was better than some of the guys I was playing with and I got the opportunity to go to the Instructional League in Arizona after the season…to straighten some things out.  That was a good thing.  I got to talk with some of the front office people and they knew that I was stressed over my season.

After hitting .289 for the first half of the season at Myrtle Beach, Hoying was promoted to Double-A Frisco, Texas ten days ago. (Photo Provided)

“They kind of laughed and told me that it’s part of baseball, that you have to learn from it and move on.  If you do learn, it’s OK.  If you don’t learn from it it’s a failed season.  It might have been the best part of my year, having them tell me to relax and learn from my mistakes….that they still believed in me.”

Home since the week before Thanksgiving, Hoying has had a chance to unwind and put the last year in perspective.

“When I got home I threw my gear in the closet and told myself I wasn’t going to think about baseball.  I took some time to spend with the family.  I did some hunting, and I got to see my sister Janell kill her first deer with a crossbow.  That was pretty neat.

“But a couple of weeks ago I began to get the itch to play again.  I started hitting indoors with Bill (Sturwold) and I’m excited to get back to it, to go to spring training.  I’ll probably start the year in Myrtle Beach again, but I know what to expect this time.  My goal is to get to Double-A (Frisco, Texas) by mid-season.”

He is a year older and wiser.  Noticeably bigger and more physically mature,  Jared Hoying is every bit the prospect now, and more, than the one who led the entire Texas organization in hitting just 16 months ago.  He knows some things now…himself, his ability to play, and his desire to advance to the highest levels of the game.

“I’m ready to go to spring training and compete like crazy.  I know I’m good enough to play.  I know I’m better than some of the guys ahead of me.  I’ve just got to show it if I want to get called up to the next level.”

The illusions of grandeur are gone.  All Jared Hoying wants this year is a better job in baseball.  He’s got some catchin’ up to do.

The best part is…now he knows how!

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