The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies repeated as National League pennant winners and went to the World Series for a second consecutive season for the first and only time in franchise history.
And yet they still found a way to give three games and four plate appearances worth of experience to catcher Paul Hoover, the latest in our ‘Phillies 50‘ series on the most random 1971-2019 Philadelphia Phillies players.
Hoover was taken by the Tampa Ray Devil Rays with their 23rd round selection in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft out of Kent State University in his native Ohio. Both of Hoover’s parents were deaf, and he had to learn sign language from the time he was able. After five seasons toiling in the minor leagues he was finally called up when rosters expanded in September 2001.
On September 8, 2001, Hoover made his debut in Major League Baseball when Rays’ manager Hal McRae sent him up as a pinch-hitter for shortstop Chris Gomez in the top of the 9th inning with the team trailing the host Oakland Athletics at Network Associates Colisseum. With two strikes on him, Hoover lined a clean base hit to left field off A’s reliever Luis Vizcaino.
Hoover would get his first start in the big-leagues on September 23, 2001 at SkyDome in Toronto. While he went 0-3 at the plate he worked a strong game behind it, catching a combined five-hit shutout by the late Joe Kennedy and reliever Esteban Yan during a 1-0 victory for the DRays.
In all, Hoover would see five games worth of action with Tampa Bay over the 2001-02 seasons. He became a free agent following the 2002 season and began an eight-year stretch during which he would sign with a half-dozen teams, including back with the DRays a couple of different times.
From 2006-08, Hoover got into 20 games with the Florida Marlins, including 13 in the 2008 season, the most action that he would see in any one MLB campaign.
The Phillies signed Hoover as a free agent in January 2009 and invited him to spring training with the club. He would spend most of the 2009-10 seasons as the primary catcher with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, but would also appear in a dozen games with the big club.
His three-game stint with the 2009 Phillies all came at the very end of the season. With the team holding a comfortable six-game lead on the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East Division with just nine remaining, Hoover was given his first Phillies start.
It was September 25, 2009 on a Friday night at Miller Park in Milwaukee, the second of a four-game weekend series with the host Brewers. The host Brew Crew would beat up on Cliff Lee that night, scoring seven earned runs on nine hits over six innings during an 8-4 drubbing in which Hoover produced two hits.
On September 28, 2009 at Citizens Bank Park, Hoover was brought in as part of a lineup double-switch by manager Charlie Manuel in place of Miguel Cairo, who had just pinch-hit for starting catcher Paul Bako. He would catch both J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge during the final two innings of an 8-2 loss to the Houston Astros that night. That loss dropped the Phillies lead to four games with six to play, but they would clinch over the next two nights.
In the Phillies regular season finale on October 4, 2009 at home against the Florida Marlins, Hoover finally got to experience a victory by the team – and he would prove the direct source of that win.
The Phillies and Marlins rolled into extra-innings tied at 6-6. Manuel put him in again as part of a defensive double-switch in the top of the 10th inning. In the bottom of the frame, Hoover came to the plate with John Mayberry at second and Jayson Werth at first and two outs. After working the count full, Hoover ripped a walkoff line single off third baseman Wes Helms to score Mayberry with the game-winner.
Hoover would appear in six games during May of 2010 while Carlos Ruiz was out with an injury and three more that September. He became a free agent once again, signing with the Boston Red Sox in February 2011 and going to spring training with the Bosox. He did not make the squad and was done with organized baseball as a player at age 34.
A couple of interesting notes on Hoover. He holds the MLB record for most seasons played by a non-pitcher while getting 25 or fewer plate appearances in each at six. He also shares the MLB record by having appeared in seven different seasons while maintaining his rookie status.
In 2012 the Rays hired Hoover to manage their rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. After that season he became a roving catching instructor in their minor league system. In December of 2018 he replaced Rocco Baldelli as the Rays field coordinator under manager Kevin Cash.