Big Red grad Paul Hoover is catching coordinator with Rays

Paul Hoover reported to spring training with the Tampa Rays in a new capacity with the organization.

The 1994 Steubenville High School graduate was named the catching coordinator for the Rays.

“Last year the organization asked me what I wanted to do and I told them I wanted to be the catching coordinator, eventually coach in the big leagues and, one day, maybe manage in the big leagues,” said Hoover. “They were fully aware that after last year if that job opened up I would be interested in it.

“I was fortunate that it did open up and they offered it to me.”

Hoover spent last season as manager for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” he said. “I’ve played in Triple A and the big leagues since 2001, then I went back to the earliest level and you take for granted what baseball players know. It was different for me going back to the basics. At the same time, it was refreshing to try and teach some of those things.

“It was not easy by any means. They learned as much from me as I did from them.”

What Hoover really likes about his new position is the work schedule.

“There’s definitely a lot of travel, but it is different in a sense that I will be gone for five days and stay with a team or a certain level for that time and then I will be able to get home and spend time with my wife and daughters.

“That is very important to me. My wife and daughters have sacrificed a lot with me. They have been with me for the summers. Now, I will be able to get home and not miss any more dance recitals or birthdays.

“The organization will tell me the guys I need to see and how many times I need to see them and I will be able to do that around my schedule.”

He said he will have certain objectives throughout spring training.

“I will have those guys get prepared the way I want them to get prepared,” he said. “They will do the drills I want them to do. Obviously, they are talented and have their own certain ways, but it is my job to help them continue to grow and get better and eventually get to the big leagues.

“My job is to develop these guys to catch in the big leagues with the Rays, and, if not the Rays, then for someone else.”

Hoover was a 23rd-round pick in 1997 by the Rays. He spent eight years in the minor league system and had two brief stints in the majors in 2001-02. He also played for the Marlins and Phillies.

He was drafted as a shortstop, but was eventually moved to catcher.

“I knew I wanted to play and I thought I was talented enough to play until I saw some of the other guys,” Hoover recalled. “When they converted me to a catcher I wanted no part of it. With that being said, I was able to stay around, play for a long time and stay in the game.

“You are in the game as a shortstop, but you are in the game differently when you are a catcher. You are involved where everybody is or supposed to be and what everybody’s job is. You are able to see everybody because you are facing them.

“When you play center field or are a pitcher, you know what your responsibilities are. But, when you are behind the plate, you need to know what everybody’s responsibilities are.

“Everything goes into catching, the physical and mental aspects of it. On the lower levels you focus on routines and how to do certain things. On the higher levels, you learn how to call a game and how to handle a staff.

“It was hard enough for me to make the transition. But, as I got older, I learned a little more about executing and pitchers making pitches.

“I’m the kind of guy that if you asked me to do something, I would do it. I didn’t envision myself being a catcher. But, the organization asked me to try it and I did.

“As I continued to get after it and grow, I saw myself getting better and I became a prospect and that’s when I feel I became a priority in an organization.

“I was having success and I liked the success. I built upon that success and learned and grew and eventually went up the ladder.”

He was a member of the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies who lost the World Series to the New York Yankees.

“That was amazing,” he said. “The whole time we were playing I realized being in that place is definitely why you play the game.”

The bottom line for Hoover, though, is he gets to marry his two loves – family and baseball.

“This game is something I love, but I was also really hesitant to sacrifice family time because, like I said, they have sacrificed so much for me,” he said.

“This job helps out that part of my life tremendously.”