In May, Jake Hoover was leading off games at the top of the batting order for the Hillsdale College Chargers. A month later, he was signing a professional contract as a member of the Texas Rangers organization. Since then, Hoover has turned successful college years into a career that college athletes can only dream of.
Hoover began the summer playing for the Kalamazoo Growlers, a summer league team in the Northwoods League for college players to stay sharp in between collegiate seasons. But after being drafted in the 28th round of the June 2019 MLB draft, Hoover went on to play for the Arizona League Rangers, where played only two games before being promoted to the Spokane Indians, a single-A level team. The promotion to the single-A level is an impressive feat for any minor league player just months removed from being drafted.
During his college career, Hoover received multiple honors, including a spot on the American Baseball Coaches Association All-Region second team in 2019. He was widely regarded as a leader on the team and was respected for his ability to make clutch plays, both in the field on defense and at the plate.
Hoover hit .328 throughout his college career while smacking 12 home runs and driving in 64 runs. He paced the offense with a .416 on-base percentage. He leaves Hillsdale with the second-most triples (12) and seventh-most stolen bases (38) in program history.
Hoover especially excelled during the 2019 season at Hillsdale, slugging .672, the highest percentage of any Charger in a single season. His seven triples and 21 stolen bases were also single-season highs for any player in program history.
Hoover has put up solid numbers this summer in the minor leagues, hitting .247 with 16 RBI and a .377 OBP. He’s played nifty defense at all four infield positions, committing only six errors.
Now that he’s achieved the dream of being drafted by an MLB team and beginning his development in the minor leagues, Hoover has his sights set on the bright lights.
“Obviously the main goal is to make it to The Show,” Hoover said. “I wanted to take in what the older guys were showing me and gain as much information as I can to make myself a better baseball player. My goal now is to be a .300 hitter with a good OBP.”
Hoover has experienced a far different workload playing in the minor leagues than he did as a college star.
“In college, plays would go through me because I had the best arm in the infield so I would go where I have to go to get the ball,” Hoover said. “In the pros, you’re dealing with other guys who are just as skilled, if not better than you, so you need to learn how to keep your own and stay in your lane.”
Apart from his skills as a middle infielder at Hillsdale, Hoover shined at the plate, batting over .300 in his college career. He aims to transfer those skills to the pros, yet battles skill levels he has yet to encounter.
“Pitching is the biggest difference I’ve experienced since college,” Hoover said. “We have guys pitching 90 – 95 [miles per hour] and every once in a while we get someone busting triple digits. Getting used to that was the biggest adjustment I’ve made.”
Camaraderie, discipline, and strength are some of the core values of college athletics. But Hoover has noticed a difference between college and the pros.
“It’s a little bit more ‘me’ oriented. Everyone is trying to get their own,” Hoover said. “However, I do believe there are a lot of good leaders on the team; guys that would take a bullet for you on and off the field.”
On top of his adoration for the game and his short and long-term goals for the pros, Hoover noted one of his favorite parts of playing at the next level.
“You have stuff that you need to do all day,” Hoover said. “But I get to wake up at nine which is way later than I ever woke up in college.”
Regardless of the fact that Hoover competes against some of the greatest young baseball players in the country, he says the biggest threat he sees comes from those playing alongside him.
“Your competition isn’t the other team,” Hoover said. “It’s the guys on your own team. With everyone trying to get promoted and trying to get their stats up, you really need to push yourself to keep up.”
The single-A season for Spokane will end on Monday, but the Indians currently hold a one-game lead in the Northwest League North Division. Should they make the playoffs, Hoover will continue to play into September.