Puhl, Hoke together again
Jan. 29, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.
The Creighton Hoke that Terry Puhl used to coach bears little resemblance to the player he currently coaches.
Hoke played first base on Puhl's 7-year-old machine-pitch team in Sugar Land.
The Hoke who will be the starting pitcher in Game 1 of the University of Houston-Victoria's season-opening doubleheader at the University of Texas-Brownsville on Friday stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds.
"When I played on my first-ever select team, Terry was always the coach," Hoke said. "I've known him a good majority of my baseball career."
Coincidence played a role in Hoke reconnecting with his former coach for his senior season.
Puhl was at an event for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League and ran into Hoke's father.
Danny Hoke informed Puhl his son was looking for a place to play and Creighton Hoke enrolled at UHV in time to take part in fall practice.
"What I liked about him was his velocity to start with and his size," Puhl said. "He just really hasn't got a lot of mileage on that arm. He's not just a starting pitcher, but a first baseman and designated hitter as well."
Hoke pitched only briefly in high school at Fort Bend Kempner.
He began his collegiate career at San Jacinto College playing first base and got on the mound almost by accident as a sophomore.
"We were playing the fall World Series and the players were coaching," Hoke said. "I had pitched against one of the coaches in high school. We ran out of pitching the third day and I went out there. I didn't swing a bat the rest of the year. It changed right then."
Hoke pitched well enough to attract the attention of the University of Maryland during a doubleheader against Odessa College played in Fort Worth.
"I threw in the second game," Hoke said. "I was leaving the field and an assistant coach from Maryland approached me and asked if I would mind leaving Texas for a while. I went on a visit and really liked it."
Hoke pitched only six innings for the Terrapins last season and decided not to return.
He was thankful when Puhl gave him the opportunity to play closer to home.
"It was more of a learning curve," Hoke said. "I gained a lot of knowledge. After a year, I kind of decided it wasn't the right fit."
Hoke made a good first impression on UHV pitching coach Doug Heinold.
"He's a big guy who throws hard," Heinold said. "He really pounds the strike zone. He's got good movement on the ball, a really good four-seam. He has four good pitches along with a two-seam, and we're working on that. I think he's going to be really good for us."
Hoke is looking forward to playing for Puhl again and helping the Jaguars recapture the NAIA Association of Independent Institution's tournament title and advancing deep into the playoffs.
"My main goal every time I go out is to give my team the opportunity to win," Hoke said. "The more games we win means the further we go in the season."
NOTES: UHV returns six starters from last season's team, which finished with a 31-25 record and lost to Cal State San Marcos in the final of the AII tournament.
John Longoria and Tyler Steiner are back in the outfield, Cory Hulsey and Ryan Suescun return in the infield, Brandon Bohanon is back at catcher, and Cory Carter returns at pitcher.
Bohanon sat out fall practice with a broken ankle, but could be ready to play by mid-February.
Pitcher Zack Moya returns after missing last season and infielder Chad Kruse, who played for the Victoria Generals of the Texas Collegiate League, has transferred from Sam Houston State.
Carter is expected to start Game 2 against UT-Brownsville, Moya is scheduled to start Game 3, and Tanner Hamilton is the likely starter for Game 4.
The Jaguars will play Texas A&M-Kingsville in their home opener on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. at Riverside Stadium.