Home, sweet home for Keys' Hoes

Many professional baseball players would love to play two hours away from their hometown, but it wasn't close enough for L.J. Hoes last season.

While he was playing for the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds, the 20-year-old second baseman encountered two major family issues.


"My parents got sick -- my dad actually had a stroke and my mother had cancer, so it was actually tough," Hoes said at the Single-A Frederick Keys media day. "Now, being at home with them, I'll be able to see them every day."With his promotion to the Keys this year, Hoes will be able to take care of his parents while staying at home. However, the Orioles' third-round pick in the 2008 MLB draft knows he can't let it be too distracting or his on-the-field performance will suffer.

"It has its ups and downs. There are times where I just want to be left alone before the game and I want to be focused," Hoes said. "It's tough, I mean, when there are high expectations for you."

Hoes batted .260 with two home runs and 47 RBIs in 119 games for the Shorebirds last season. He added 19 doubles and 20 stolen bases.

Hoes doesn't believe there will be added pressure being one of the youngest players in the Carolina League in 2010. Along with Keys outfielder Xavier Avery, who was also born in 1990, he faced a similar situation with the Shorebirds last year.

"I know I'm one of the youngest guys out there, but I don't like to use age. I like to go out there and compete," Hoes said. "We're all here competing to get to the major leagues, so that's what I want to do."

During the offseason, Hoes worked with Avery and Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward in Georgia. Considered by many to be the top prospect in the major leagues heading into the 2010 season, Heyward hit a three-run home run in his first major league at-bat Monday.

Hoes took a lot away from his interactions with the 20-year-old phenom over the winter.

"His work ethic. He works harder than a lot of guys. He's in the gym at 8:30 in the morning, then he's out hitting, taking fly balls and throwing every day," Hoes said. "Being around those guys makes you want to work hard. ... I'm going to go back next year and work with those guys to just keep getting better."

Defensively, Hoes struggled at times with the Shorebirds. He committed 28 errors last year, but hopes his offseason work will make that number decline in 2010.

"You have to be there every day and working out every day. Your body gets tired and mentally you get tired," Hoes said. "Also, the high school games are seven innings and [professional baseball] is nine innings, so you have an extra two innings where you have to still bear down.

"That's the thing -- a lot of times, especially late in the season, I got tired and that's where a lot of my errors came from," he added. "I think this year I definitely came back in better condition and I worked on my hands a lot in the offseason."

Does seeing someone like Heyward succeeding in the major leagues after starting last season in the Carolina League put any added pressure on other young players to repeat that performance?

"Everyone wants you to get to Baltimore as quick as you can, but I also need to know that I have to learn first before I make it to Baltimore," Hoes said. "I want to be able to go up there and succeed, not just go up there and fail and get sent right back down."