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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Hoiles brings major experience

When Chris Hoiles talks, Bowling Green baseball players have good reason to listen.

The first-year assistant coach for the BG baseball team has caught Mike Mussina, hit against Roger Clemens, taken the field alongside Cal Ripken, Jr., watched Roberto Alomar field, and was managed by Frank Robinson, Johnny Oates and Davey Johnson in a 10-year major league career.

Hoiles, who caught for the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1999, officially coaches the catchers for the Falcons, but his impact reaches beyond his job description. He brings with him first-hand experience players in a mid-major baseball program usually aren’t privy to.

He was in the lineup when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played. It was the night of Sept. 6, 1995, and the Orioles were hosting the Angels. Ripken was about to play in his 2,131st consecutive game, a streak that dated to 1982. Hoiles said the magnitude of the event didn’t hit him until the night came. He said players were milling around the Orioles clubhouse with video cameras for posterity’s sake.

Ripken’s record became official after the top of the fifth inning, and the game was stopped for a ceremony. A banner bearing the number one fluttered down over the zero in “2,130” on the warehouse adjacent to right field at Camden Yards, and players from both dugouts stood and applauded. Ripken made a lap around the field high-fiving fans.

“That was pretty special,” Hoiles said. “It was pretty festive that night. Baltimore has huge baseball fans, and they knew what to expect.”

Hoiles credits the Ripkens – Cal Jr., Billy, and their late father Cal Sr. – with being a big reason why he’s been so successful in baseball.

“They taught me how to play the game right,” he said. “They taught me what it takes to go to the big leagues and stay there.”

Hoiles came to the Orioles organization in 1988 in a trade that sent former American League MVP Fred Lynn to the Tigers. He had above-average power for a catcher and was solid, if not flashy, defensively.

When he broke into the majors on April 25, 1989, the Orioles were in the midst of one of the most improbable turnarounds in recent history. Robinson, in his first year as manager, had taken a young team that had finished in last place the previous year, and had them fighting for first place. They wound up finishing in second, behind Toronto, with an 87-75 record.

By 1991, Hoiles had supplanted Mickey Tettleton as the Orioles everyday catcher. He hit .243 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 341 at-bats. His .998 fielding average led the AL, the first of four times he would lead league catchers in that category.

1993 was a career year for Hoiles. He hit .310 with 29 homers and 82 RBIs, the only time in his career he broke .300 for the season.

Behind the plate, Hoiles had to captain the pitching staff. He had some good battery-mates to work with, though. Mussina, now with the Yankees, was one of the best pitchers in Orioles history. If the second half of his career is similar to the first, he’s probably headed to Cooperstown.

“Mussina is the pitcher I probably enjoyed catching the most,” he said. “I caught him for quite a few games in Baltimore.”

Scott Erickson was the toughest pitcher for Hoiles to catch. A right-hander with one of the best sinkerballs in the game at the height of his career, Erickson always had Hoiles wary of pitches in the dirt.

“Erickson’s sinker is tough,” he said. “It is a very heavy pitch that sinks a lot, tough to catch.”

Former Orioles Roberto Alomar and Eddie Murray are great players. Both are probable first-ballot Hall of Famers. But both have run into some controversy, usually because of their personalities. Alomar, now with the Mets, became embroiled in an ugly incident as a member of the Orioles late in the 1996 season when he spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck.

Murray, now the hitting coach for the Indians, has never been so maligned, but got a reputation as icy with some of the paint-peeling glares he gave members of the media throughout his career.

Whatever the public perception of Alomar and Murray, Hoiles said they were always good teammates.

“Alomar is so gifted as a player,” he said. “He just fun to watch. Eddie is a teacher. He was always teaching (other players.)”

Hoiles was one of the team veterans when the Orioles played both David and Goliath in the 1996 and 1997 playoffs, his only major league postseason experiences. As the wild card in 1996, they knocked off the defending AL champion Indians before falling to the Yankees in the ALCS. In 1997, they led the AL with 98 wins but lost to the 86-win Tribe in the ALCS when Mussina pitched two outstanding games but could not come up with a win.

By 1999, a bad back had started to take its toll on Hoiles. The Orioles were no longer contenders and a youth movement in the organization appeared imminent. When the Orioles traded for Charles Johnson, Hoiles lost his starting job and decided to retire after the season. He moved back to his hometown of Wayne, Ohio, about 15 miles from BG.

Geography played the biggest role in Hoiles coming to the BG baseball program.

“The biggest thing was it was local, living in the area,” he said. “Secondly, it is a great program, and I have an interest in being able to pass on what I have learned.”

Hoiles entry to the BG program comes at the right time. After this season, they will lose senior catcher Tim Newell to graduation. There are a group of freshman catchers behind Newell that need to be groomed for next year.

BG head coach Danny Schmitz is very pleased with Hoiles’ impact on the team.

“We have a guy that’s a 10-year major league veteran,” he said. “For him to come in and work on our guys, that’s very valuable. He can give them insight as to what takes place at the next level.”

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