Hoes takes time to work on his defense and the mental part of the game

Over the last couple of years I have had the chance to interview many Orioles minor leaguers. Few have been as impressive as LJ Hoes.

He's an articulate young man of 21 who has an ability to analyze his play and understand where he needs to improve. He seems very coachable and passionate about the game.

This week, I asked him where he learned to value the mental aspects of the game so well.

"My father and my high school coach have always stressed the mental aspects of the game," Hoes said. "Once you get to professional baseball, all these guys have ability. There are a lot of first- and second-round picks, everyone has similar ability.

"What separates you is the mental part. Can you see different things that other guys can't see? Are you able to think about certain situations like how the pitcher will throw to you?

"This can give you an advantage. Some guys don't think about certain aspects. Knowing the mental part has helped me mature more as a baseball player."

I told you. Sharp guy.

Meanwhile, there have been mixed reports on Hoes' glove work at second base. He was mostly an outfielder in high school and said he is still working hard to improve on defense.

"This offseason I went back to my high school coach. We did a lot of drill work," Hoes said. "Plus talking to guys like (coaches) Mike Bordick, Bobby Dickerson and Denny Hocking, just picking their brain. Having them around, they help me learn to read pitches and read bats. All the drill work helps me to keep my feet moving and use my hands better.

"This is not an overnight process. For me, switching to infield in professional baseball, it will take a lot of hard work and I'm ready for that. Rome wasn't built in one night."

By the way, that high school coach he refers to is Mark Gibbs. Gibbs himself played in the O's minor leagues from 2000 to 2002, reaching as high as Double-A Bowie.

A reminder: This Thursday is the debut of "The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" on MASN at 5 p.m., following the Nationals' opener. The baseball show will provide coverage of both the Orioles and Nationals and will feature Tom Davis, Dave Johnson, Phil Wood and Mel Antonen. You can watch it this year Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. on MASN.

Join us this Friday: We'll be at Hightopps on York Road in Timonium to celebrate the start of the season. We'll have another chat with fans and some giveaways between 6 and 7 p.m. Then stick around to watch the opening night game, O's at Tampa, live on MASN. By the way, we will have a pair of tickets to Monday's home opener that we will give away to one lucky fan on Friday at Hightopps.

Follow me on Twitter: @masnsteve.

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