Monday, July 23, 2018

Young catcher O'Hoppe making a splash in rookie ball

Fresh out of the MLB first year player draft catcher Logan O'Hoppe (pronounced oh-HOP-y) is just about a month into his professional playing career, but he’s already making some pretty big impressions.

O’Hoppe, the Phillies’ 23rd round draft selection this year, is assigned to the Rookie level Gulf Coast League and spends time behind the dish for the Phillies’ West team (they also field an East team while there was previously a single GCL club in prior seasons). Through 13 games, the 18-year-old Long Island, NY native sports a lofty .500 batting average with three doubles and six runs driven in.

While he's paying offensive dividends in the early going, it's his work with the team's pitching staff that's helping O'Hoppe build a meaningful reputation.

Phillies West pitching coach Matt Hockenberry cites the six-foot-two 185-pounder's skill set and mindset as reasons to be excited about the Phillies’ first high school catcher signed since 2010 (Chace Numata).

“He is an unbelievable human being,” Hockenberry said of O’Hoppe in a recent phone interview. “He’s a new draft guy, a guy that you have to just let do his thing and he is ridiculously intelligent behind home plate. He’s got all the tools that I think in my mind lead to a long, successful career. He’s got the body, he’s got the durability, his receiving is unbelievable.”

Hockenberry, a Temple University product who is roughly a year removed from his own playing career, values the way O’Hoppe works hard and trusts his own gut. The first-year coach also raves about the youngster's already outstanding defense, something he was praised for on his way to becoming his conference's player of the year this spring at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School.  There, he batted .511 and notched a .662 on-base percentage in the regular season.

A true student of the game, O'Hoppe is taking advantage of every opportunity and values the work place vibe that the organization has instilled around the Phils minor league complex in Clearwater, FL.

“It’s a different world down here and I’m enjoying it a lot,” O’Hoppe shared. “I always dreamed to just go to a field every day to have everything I needed to prepare for the game and recover from the game and to do well. They’re so bought-in to everything you’re doing and as long as you get your work done and do it the right way, I feel like there’s no way you can’t be in a good spot to succeed.”

O’Hoppe describes himself as a stereotypical New York kid that grew up loving the Yankees and Derek Jeter. But it was a meeting with Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher as a child that helped him fit the bill of what he views as an exemplary ball player.

Swisher’s grandmother, who had a big part in raising him as a young man, passed away after he had started his big league career. O’Hoppe lost his paternal grandmother at a much younger age. During a family trip to see the Yankees in spring training, a not-quite-teenage O’Hoppe chose to seek advice from a big leaguer that had dealt with similar heart ache.

“I asked him a question about how he dealt with that, ‘cause it was a little tough for my family and I. He always had some impact on me,” said O’Hoppe.

That influence helps to further define the type of ball player and the sort of person O’Hoppe is. On or away from the ball field, his goal is to make an impact on each person he meets, whether conversing socially or talking with a fan seeking an autograph.  He wants each individual he encounters to remember the meeting. He expects that of himself.

Speaking of expectations, his noteworthy output to open his first professional campaign was not an outcome that he anticipated, however.

"I didn’t expect this at all. I thought I was going to hit under .100 to be honest with you," O'Hoppe admitted. "I told my parents before I headed down here, 'I may get the bat blown out of my hands.'"

But despite any doubts in himself, he says the support he gets back at home from his family and friends is huge and has been a motivator while he adjusts to his new life eight states away.

On the developmental path, O’Hoppe has a long way to go and much to learn.  He's got a general focus for how he aims toward making similar impressions as he ascends the baseball ranks.

"A big thing that everyone knows throughout professional baseball is to just stay consistent," O'Hoppe said.  "Hopefully, I’ll stay in my routine and do things that work for me so I can continue to get better and keep getting opportunities."
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