Bryan Hoover - INF / OF
BATS: Switch THROWS: Right
HT: 5’9” WT: 160
BORN: May 14, 1977 / Griffin, GA
HOME: Loganville, GA
MARRIED: Angela KIDS: Molly & Emily
BIO: I started playing baseball when I was 6 years old and started switch hitting when I was 13. I graduated from Pike County High School in 1995 and signed with ABAC, later transferring to Gordon College where I played in 1996 at 19 years old. After one year of playing college baseball I felt it was more important for me to serve God. He gave me a talent in music which I served Him with for the past 19 years. I founded and pastored The Avenue Church from 2010-2014. During 2014 I wanted to really get in great shape and be healthier. I began training and eating healthier which helped fuel my fitness and training as the desire to play baseball at an older age became very strong inside of me. In 2015, I began traveling the country going to tryouts. While in New York at my 10th tryout, I signed my first professional contract with the Explorers of the North Country Baseball League. I became a pro rookie at age 38!
Q & A
*When did you pastor Avenue Church?
I founded The Avenue Church in 2010 and pastored it for 5 years. My best friend and Associate Pastor Jordan Flores then stepped up to be pastor as I felt I had taken the church as far as I could as the leader and God was working in me for what was next.
*Did you play baseball in high school and college?
Yes I played both. In high school I played at Pike County High School where I gratuated in '95. After high school I signed to play at ABAC in Tifton, GA but came back home to stay involved in local ministry and decided to play local and tryout for the team at Gordon College in Barnesville, GA. These two teams were in the same division which meant I had to get permission from my former coach at ABAC. He was kind enough to let me play there eventhough I know he really wanted me. Thanks coach! After playing the Spring and then Fall of '96 I really felt God leading me towards music ministry. I then began my ministry journey and wanted to be faithful to be used by God. So for me it was walking away from baseball, the thing I had done all my life at that point.
*How many tryout camps did you attend and had anybody shown any interest?
In 2015, I attended 10 tryouts all over eastern and central united states. I started in the highest independent leagues before realizing that they really want experienced guys and look for guys who get released from MLB, AAA and AA. Considering I came back to the game after 19 years out of college and was 37 at the time, I confused people and honestly I was out of the norm. I didn’t have experience at the pro level or fit what makes sense for them as a club. I totally understand and if I were in there shoes would probably not taken a real interest either because you want to win and seasoned guys have more experience. I had two teams show some interest in me despite my age in the Camden Riversharks and Gary Southshore Railcats. The Riversharks of the Atlantic League (considered the highest level of independent leagues), talked to me about possibly coming to Spring Training but it was just the lack of experience that took me out of the running. At Gary (American Association), the coach gave me a second workout and spoke with me in a positive way. At the end of the day, he had two guys already that he felt were just like me and had been on the team a couple of years and have a full roster on the infield. He did make a comment that had I played in like AAA that it would make a lot of difference. I agree and understand from a coaches position how vital it is to have experience.
*Were their times you thought about giving up?
Like anyone, you wonder if it will ever happen. I don't remember ever getting to the point of giving up mostly because I just started trying. However, my time clock is really ticking. I just tried to learn from what I was hearing and came to the point of starting in a lower level league who looked for new, raw talent. I knew I needed to get in and get the at bats and experience needed to become a better ball player before I was ever going to move up. Most new leagues and existing leagues have age limits which eliminates me from the start. I just knew I was invisible to baseball and had to show up everywhere I could.
*Did you do anything special at this tryout?
I came across at tryout for the Watertown Bucks in the North Country Baseball League but thought they would have an age limit. After inquiring, I got a response back that there was no age limit. So I planned my journey up. I flew into Philly and stayed a with a great fan and now friend Tom Peculski of the Camden Riversharks Faithful. We drove up to upstate New York about 6 hours and took in a AAA Yankees game on the way. I had a really good tryout with the Bucks and they where looking to fill one spot. They took a great pitcher that day and were really wanting to add a pitcher. The coach said I was a guy who might could get a spot on another team in the league so that was encouraging. We left Watertown and drove back to Philly. With one more tryout planned for Bridgeport, CT on Monday, another post popped up about another team in the North Country Baseball League having a tryout, the travel team, Road City Explorers. I kinda thought for a minute "the travel team, oh no!" Looking at the radar for weather, I saw 100% chance of rain on Monday for Bridgport. They rescheduled the tryout for the next day, the same day as this new tryout. Now I had to choose. Based on what I had learned with the leagues, my situation and the fact that Watertown’s coach like me enough to potentially talk to some of the oher coaches, I felt my chances were best in Watertown. We made the 6 hour drive back up and it poured down rain the morning of the tryout. I didn't know if it would get cancelled all together as some do but now I was kicking myself cause Bridgeport was sunny and having their tryout. About 45 minutes later I talked to a few guys who said it was rescheduled for tomorrow which I was relieved. One of the guys I spoke with was a pitcher for the team and remembered me from another tryout earlier int the year, at Bridgeport of all places. I finally get to workout for the team and coach Eddie Gonzales ask me why I wanted to play professional baseball and we had a good conversation. Later that night after taking BP(Batting Practice) with the team, he handed me a jersey and said "I'm giving you a shot!" I was shocked! I got to be in the dougout that night and for a few minutes in the middle of the game, it hit me. What a moment that was! I am a professional baseball player, at 38 years old!
Pro Baseball: Hoover, 38, fulfills dream by signing deal with Road City
WATERTOWN — Five days after being the oldest prospect at the Watertown Bucks open tryout at Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, 38-year-old Bryan Hoover has signed a contract with the Road City Explorers.
Hoover founded a ministry and started a family in his 20s — he lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and their children. Still in tremendous shape and equipped with a lifelong passion for the game, Hoover decided last year to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball before the opportunity past him by.
His lack of any professional baseball experience combined with his age has been a roadblock. Hoover was turned away by several independent leagues across the country before impressing Bucks manager Kelly Stinnett last Friday
Three months earlier, after working out for the Camden Riversharks just outside of Philadelphia, Pa., Hoover took up a friendship with Riversharks fanatic Tom Peculski. When Hoover caught wind of the Watertown tryout, Peculski invited Hoover to stay in his home and offered to drive up with him to the north country.
Neither of them had been to Cooperstown. Worst case scenario, they joked, perhaps they could finally make their baseball pilgrimage.
“It’s cool to find people who are willing to help you on your journey,” Hoover said.
A switch-hitting utility player, Hoover proved to Stinnett he could hang with younger guys — he batted 2-for-3, stole third base and turned a double play at shortstop during a scrimmage. But the Bucks needed an arm and opted for Anthony Magovney, the hard-throwing Immaculate Heart Central product.
The Explorers were holding a tryout on Tuesday, and so it was back to the Fairgrounds for Hoover for another showcase. Only the skies opened up and Explorers manager Eddie Gonzalez postponed until Wednesday.
Making the most of it, Hoover and Peculski took Tuesday to enjoy the Hall of Fame. On Wednesday, Hoover took the field at 10 a.m. to workout for Gonzalez. He was invited to batting practice and infield before Road City’s game against Watertown, and 30 minutes before first pitch Hoover signed his contract.
“It’s an incredible story,” Gonzalez said. “He has brought everyone here together in a spiritual realm... He’s pursuing his dream and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Hoover is available to play his first professional game tonight when Road City takes on Watertown at 7 p.m.
“It’s a relief,” Hoover said. “It’s unbelievable to make it to this level... No more interviews and trying (to convince) people. For me and my family it’s finally been worth the sacrifice.”
38 Year Old 'Exploring' New Career
At 38 years old, most baseball players are winding down their careers on the diamond, but the dream for one Road City Explorer is just getting started. Now, he's signed with the Explorers and is pursuing his dream.
I am a 5'9" switch hitting short stop/utility man. I am grateful for this opportunity. My beautiful wife and daughters have sacrificed a lot for me to chase this dream and I love them so much. I feel I always have a mission as God is the leader of this my life. I want to always be used by Him to serve His mission and His purpose. So many scriptures have paved the way on my journey and given me the persistence to go after life. I am grateful for my faith and feel as though my journey is one like Abraham, I was supposed to lay down and sacrifice that which I loved, baseball. He decided to give me the passion back and the right circumstances to pursue it and He allowed it back in my life as I pursued Him first! It's a neat way to have it happen! As scripture says: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Photographer: Robert Simmons