Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Onetime Wichita relief pitcher James Hoyt is visiting New York City this week and hanging out in the visitor’s dugout as the Houston Astros try to eliminate the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and get back to the World Series.
Hoyt is not on the 25-man active roster at present, but he is very much a part of the Astros’ traveling party so keep an eye out for No. 51 when television cameras pan the dugout.
Hoyt works out prior to games as if he was active, and continues “listening to the older guys” to pick up any tips he can since “my goal is to stay (in the majors) as long as I can,” he told this writer from the Big Apple this week. And, he could get put back on the active roster at any time if an injury occurs or if manager A. J. Hinch decides to change the makeup of his bullpen if the Astros get to the World Series.
That is not much of a stretch, either, since the 31-year-old right-hander did not allow any runs in his five September appearances (six innings) and got into 43 games (1-0, 4.38) during the regular season. Hoyt confirmed his patented slider continues to be his out pitch, a lethal weapon as he struck out 66 batters in 49.1 major league innings. He is now 2-1, 4.44 in 65 bullpen stints since breaking into the majors August 3 one year ago.
The American Association is not far from the Boise, Idaho, native’s mind even though it was five years ago when he made 11 appearances for the Wingnuts, winning his only two decisions, saving another game and posting a 2.61 ERA.
“I had a great time there, and it got me to where I am today,” the 6-foot-6 hurler praised, adding that he keeps in touch with “the main man,” manager Kevin Hooper, who now is an infield coordinator for the San Diego Padres.
Former Saint Player of Year in Atlantic League
So often we hear of players who move on from the American Association and excel elsewhere. More times than not, these success stories involve major league teams or their minor league affiliates.
Alonzo Harris, who plays both the outfield and second base, is in another category. This speedster starred for the St. Paul Saints in both ’15 and ’16, hitting .298 and .307, respectively, with 82 stolen bases in his 183 American Association games.
Harris won Player of the Year honors this summer in the full-season Independent Atlantic League, leading the York (PA) Revolution to the championship while posting career-best figures in batting (.315), runs (89), doubles (28), home runs (23) and runs batted in (73) in 114 games. He led the league in runs scored.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sports