BY STEVE KRAH
A northwest Indiana native playing in the Deep South has belted the ball out of the ballpark more than anyone in NCAA Division I baseball so far in 2019.
But Kody Hoese, who has 21 dingers for Tulane University in New Orleans, does not consider himself a home run hitter.
“I’m a gap-to-gap guy,” says Hoese, a righty swinger from Griffith, Ind. “I focus on hitting the ball hard.”
Hoese, who heads into an American Athletic Conference Friday-Saturday-Sunday series against East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., hitting .417 with the 21 homers, 15 doubles, 52 runs batted in and a .881 slugging average in 40 contests, says he worries more about the process than the results.
In 2018, Hoese was usually in the No. 3 or No. 4 slot in head coach Travis Jewett’s Green Wave lineup, and hit .291 with five homers, 13 doubles, 34 RBIs and slugged .435 in 58 games and was selected in the 35th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals, but opted to go back to Tulane.
He chose the school because of the coaching staff and the warm climate.
“Going down South has benefitted me,” says Hoese, 21. “I can do all the little things outdoors, like seeing live pitching. It’s helped me a lot.”
Jewett is in his third season in charge at Tulane (26-14 overall, 8-3 The American) after assistant stints at Gonzaga, Washington, Washington State, Arizona State and Vanderbilt. He led the hitters at Vandy and he does the same with the Green Wave.
“When it comes to hitting, he’s a pretty open guy,” says Hoese of Jewett. “He let’s us do our own thing and I respect that a lot.
“He let’s us play to your strengths. He let’s hitters figure out their swings and what their abilities are in their swings.”
With a similar build to Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Hoese also sees that the big leaguer also uses long leverage swings to create power.
That power once launched a homer that went over the left field scoreboard at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium — a shot estimated at least 460 feet.
He has a three-homer game against Lamar.
Hoese, who finds himself on midseason watch lists for the Golden Spikes Award and Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award, also credits his weightlifting and nutrition regimens for contributing to his pop.
This spring, he has been in the 2-hole behind Trevor Jensen and in front of Hudson Haskin.
Where he hits in the order is not a big concern to Hoese.
“I don’t change much,” says Hoese. “I stick to my approach. I stick to my plan.”
Many factors go into that approach, including how the pitcher is throwing, the score, the count etc.
As a freshman, Hoese hit .213 with no homers, six doubles, 10 RBIs and a .281 slugging mark while appearing in 44 games with 32 starts (17 at shortstop, 13 at third base and two at designated hitter).
The last two seasons, Hoese has been a regular at third base.
“The major league teams I talk to, I let them know I am versatile,” says Hoese. “I can play short.”
Hoese was a four-year starter at shortstop for head coach Brian Jennings at Griffith High School.
“He’s a great guy,” says Hoese of Jennings. “He’s helped me not just on the field but off.
“He’s a great mentor.”
As a Griffith Panther, Hoese was an all-state honoree as a junior and senior. He was team captain and received MVP honors his sophomore, junior and senior years. He helped Griffith win a regional title as a senior while hitting .400 with four homers, 14 doubles, 30 RBIs and 20 stolen bases and being rated the No. 1 shortstop in Indiana by Prep Baseball Report and Perfect Game.
Hoese was born in Merrillville, Ind., and grew up in Griffith, playing at Griffith Little League and the Region-based Indiana Playmakers before going with the statewide Indiana Bulls in the summers before his junior and senior high school seasons. He reported to Tulane to get acclimated in the summer before his freshmen year.
While much of his time is spent at the park or in the class room (he is a finance major), Hoese has gotten a chance to see the sites and enjoy the hospitality of the Big Easy.
“The people there are terrific,” says Hoese. “A lot of players on the team are from New Orleans.
“It feels like home.”
Back home in Indiana, Hoese took lessons from Dave Griffin at the Dave Griffin Baseball School in Griffith as a youngster and has also received help from former Indiana University and pro player Eric Blakely at the Diamond Kings facility in St. John. He still does some hitting at their places when he’s in the area.
Kody is the son of David and Susan Hoese. His father is an account. His mother is in sales. His older sister, Kristi, is married with two kids.
Kody Hoese, a Griffith (Ind.) High School graduate, has been a regular at third base in 2018 and 2019 for Tulane University. Hoese was a four-year starter at shortstop in high school and has played short for the Green Wave. He was selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but opted to go back to school for his junior season. (Tulane University Photo)
Kody Hoese, a Griffith (Ind.) High School graduate and Tulane University junior, goes into the weekend hitting .417 with the 21 home runs, 15 doubles, 52 runs batted in and a .881 slugging average in 40 contests. He leads NCAA Division I baseball in home runs. (Tulane University)