Bryan Hoover: Letting God Lead A Unique Journey
From A Players Eyes
Born in Griffin, GA on May 14, 1977, I grew up as a kid in Kennesaw, GA. I started my baseball journey when I was six years old and grew up playing outside in my neighborhood and playing baseball in my backyard with my brother Michael, who was three years older than me.
I loved the game and really took to it as a kid. When I was thirteen some things changed in my life and my family split up. I moved from the city, to the country, settling into a very small town in Georgia called Meansville, in Pike County. During my 8th and 9th grade years, I got the chance to attend Florida State Baseball Camp and that boosted my love and growth for the game. During this time I started flirting more with switch hitting as I had tried it briefly a few years before. My brother turned around one day for the fun of it and hit one in a big oak tree we had in the yard. I wanted to do that! I began working really hard to get better and better at it during that time. Also, I did long toss a lot and in the 10th grade, I had a really strong arm and good speed and started center field as a sophomore.
During that year I would turn around and bat left handed when we were up or if I had gotten some hits right handed already. As my junior year rolled around I went 100% switch hitter and hit about 90% of the time from the left side and I moved to playing shortstop. I pitched off and on throughout high school because I had a good arm but never really pursued it. During my senior year I played on an Atlanta fall league team that won it all by beating a team from the Parkview area in Georgia. I didn’t really know much about them at the time but that was a big accomplishment for us in 1994.
As I graduated from Pike County High School, a AA sized high school at the time, we did not see many scouts but I did get to play in the high school All-Star game for Georgia and was offered a JuCo scholarship from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. I transferred to Gordon Junior College as it was closer to home and played one year there. This is where my story took a turn!
I didn’t know much about life, but I wanted to know why I was on this earth and if there was a bigger reason than me just playing baseball. I loved the game and I focused on it everyday to be the best I could be. I wanted to know what the purpose of this life was if there was one. I didn’t believe in God when I was a young teenager but always said, “If there is a God, I would want to know.” That was the first step of the process.
It didn’t make much sense to me at the time and I didn’t believe in spiritual things like miracles, an invisible God, things existing that I couldn’t see. It all sounded ridiculous to me, at the time. During high school however, I asked God to show me who He was and that I truly wanted to know if he was real and exactly what He was about. If He made the world and all of us in it, why? It was a slow process and took some time to let things sink in and to understand some things, because again, it didn’t fit my “natural way of thinking.”
During my freshman year of college, I felt God challenging me and giving me His passions. He was challenging me to sacrifice baseball and give my life to Him and allow Him to show me what he was truly about and to go and serve His purposes. I could not put the two together at the time and my challenge was to offer it up to God and let Him give me something better, a real purpose. That’s not to say that baseball wasn’t great or that it is the path everyone is suppose to take, it was just my path. I needed to totally surrender everything I was, everything I did, and allow Him to give me a greater purpose.
There are so many details that I will write about one day but for now I will skip to my current place in life and briefly how I got here. I have been married to my beautiful wife since 1999 and we have two children of our own and in 2013 added another gem to our family as we became legal guardians to a sweet 14 year old girl who left Guatemala at five years old and had many different families along the way. We helped her find two of her siblings here in the states and through that God has done great things.
I served in music ministry for about 20 years and pastored a church for five years. In 2014, my dad was dealing with some health issues and it made me evaluate my health even more and I wanted to take better care of myself which ended up pushing me to see what was the best shape I could get in. While playing some ball for a hobby, I wondered how good I could play the game again if I were in good shape and if I could run again. Well, there is only one way to find out, go push yourself!
As I began the process, I had a good friend named Brian Owens, who was from our baseball league, and he gave me some encouragement as he and another guy thought I was the best player in the league and better than some of the ex-minor leaguers that played with us. I was honored to hear that and it came at a time where I was wondering how good I could play the game again. I prayed for God to be in all of it and to give me peace and a way to pursue it if He was ok with it. Remember, at one point in my life God challenged me to let it go, much like He challenged Abraham with Isacc.
When I first walked away from pursuing baseball, I wondered if God would use it in my life one day. As I began thinking and praying about this and as the passion and desire grew stronger in me, some things changed in my current life situation that honestly freed me up to go for it. My wife was wiling to let me go try and has supported me all the way.
In 2015, I began searching for tryouts all over and I had the chance to meet Marquis Grissom of the 1995 World Series Champion Atlanta Braves and he encouraged me to look into independent leagues because of my unique situation and the possibility of being offered an opportunity to play and then gain experience. Off to tryouts I went and at my 10th tryout I was offered a contract and a spot to play at age 38.
[pullquote]38 Year Old Rookie, 39 Year Old All-Star, What Will Happen at 40? Only God knows![/pullquote]
It was a small professional league that took first time rookies and they gave me a shot based on my skills and not my age. As I got a chance to start playing everyday, I sank into my roll as the third baseman and became an everyday starter. God, in His way and timing, gave me an opportunity to play the game of baseball at the professional level even at 38. I kept learning and growing and working very hard to gain more experience and in 2016 I was selected to the leagues All-Star team after hitting .310 and starting left field as a 39 year old.
I am very honored and I am working hard to make 2017 better than ever and at 40 years old.
What would God do in and through me to impact the place He has me in life. It’s definitely not the norm, but it never is when we allow God to write our story! Matthew 6:33.