Sometimes you meet people in life that have the amazing ability to smile and stay upbeat even when they experience tough times.
That describes Jim Hoey pretty well.
Many O’s fans may not even remember Hoey, who announced his official retirement from baseball today. The Orioles drafted the tall, hard-throwing right-hander out of Rider University in Round 13 in June 2003. He may be best known for being part of a trade. Hoey and Brett Jacobsen were traded by the Orioles to Minnesota on Dec. 9, 2010 for J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris. Yeah, that deal has worked out well for the Orioles.
When I think of Hoey, I think of a lot more than that though. I first met him when I broadcast Aberdeen IronBirds games in 2004. But that was a tough year for him, as he pitched in just two Aberdeen games before getting hurt and needing Tommy John surgery.
Hoey came back strong from that and remained upbeat all along the way. He made his major league debut with the Orioles in 2006 and pitched some in Baltimore in 2007, as well. But more problems were ahead of him as he suffered a shoulder injury that led to another major surgery and he missed all of the 2008 season.
Despite two major surgeries, Hoey made it back to bigs yet again. Ironically, his first game back in the majors came on April 18, 2011 at Camden Yards when he pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Twins beat the Orioles. He was throwing 96 mph that night, by the way.
That next day, I went to the Twins clubhouse to say hello and congratulate Hoey on another successful comeback. He greeted me warmly with that same smile I had seen in Aberdeen.
I wrote this story about Hoey’s return to the majors and a lot of people in the O’s organization were happy for him at that time.
But after that 2011 season, Hoey never made it back to the majors and he spent parts of the last two seasons in the Pacific Coast League and the independent Atlantic League.
Now he is retiring and today he announced that with this message. He said he was “truly grateful for everything baseball has given me and my family.”
I can’t help but think what a kid, with an attitude that great and a blazing fastball, might have been able to do if his right elbow and shoulder had not betrayed him at times.
But there is Jim, upbeat and positive even as his career ends and not thinking about anything disappointing but thankful for the chance. Man, there is a message in there somewhere for all of us.
Hoey’s final major league numbers say he went 4-7 with a 7.02 ERA over 61 games for the Twins and Orioles.
Hoey got to the show and a lot of players never get that chance - or even close. But I am going to remember him for a lot more than just those numbers.