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Kody Hoese is a simple guy.

He keeps to himself, honors his family and close friends and loves the game of baseball.

“He’s just a quiet kid,” said Sue Hoese, Kody’s mom. “He’s quiet and humble and laid back.”

The 21-year-old won’t tell you that he won four sectional titles at Griffith. He won’t mention that he was named the 2019 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year at Tulane, and he won’t brag about being drafted 25th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I never thought I’d be the Player of the Year or a first-round pick or any of that,” said Hoese, who graduated from Griffith in 2016. “But I think if you put in the hard work, anything is possible.”

Even when Hoese held a viewing party last week at Bridges' Scoreboard in Griffith to see where he might be drafted, he didn’t make it a big deal. There wasn’t an open invitation for anyone to attend, and it was also closed to the media.

That was a moment he had been working for ever since he started playing baseball, and he only wanted to be surrounded by those who have been an integral part of his journey. Hoese knew he was projected as a first-round pick and when he got a phone call from Billy Gasparino, the director of amateur scouting for the Dodgers, it was a life-changing experience for not only him but everyone in the room.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Are you ready to be a Dodger?’” Hoese said. “I was like, ‘Yes, for sure. I’m really excited.’ And then he said, ‘Well, we’ve had a lot of Rookie of the Years out here, so be ready to do that.’”

The standout third baseman had already been selected in the 35th round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals after his sophomore year with the Green Wave. However, he opted to go back for his junior campaign and put together one of the best seasons in program history.

Hoese started in all 58 games and batted .391 with 92 hits, 61 RBIs and 72 runs. He also notched 45 extra-base hits with a .779 slugging percentage, including 23 home runs — tied for the fourth-most in NCAA Division I.

After becoming a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the best amateur baseball player in the United States, he believes that not rushing his time at Tulane helped put his career on a higher trajectory.

“I noticed from my freshman to junior year that I kept making good strides,” said Hoese, who was named a 2019 First Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball. “And then the offseason coming into my junior year, I worked on getting my body in shape and getting bigger and stronger. And it was the little things, too, that paid off for me.”

Hoese said he also began studying his strike zone and what opposing pitchers’ tendencies were against him, which eventually helped him become more efficient and consistent. Griffith coach Brian Jennings said he saw flashes of Hoese’s potential throughout his prep career and especially during his final high school campaign.

As a senior, Hoese batted .400 with 30 RBIs and four home runs, including a homer in the Panthers’ win over Mishawaka Marian in the regional semifinals. Jennings will never forget that play.

“He crushed it,” Jennings said. “It got out of there in about two seconds. I remember when he rounded third base, and I was saying, ‘That’s what a Division I baseball player looks like and plays like.’ He shot it out of a cannon to left-center field. He cleared the island in our parking lot, so I would say he hit it close to 405 (feet).”

Jennings was at Bridges’ Scoreboard for Hoese’s viewing party, and he shed tears of joy when his former player got drafted. He said MLB scouts began calling him about a month prior to learn more about Hoese, and he anticipated that the third baseman's stock was rising. But it still felt unbelievable to witness him experience such a milestone.

“I knew a long time ago that his goal was to play professional baseball,” Jennings said. “But to sit there and watch the commissioner of Major League Baseball call his name out while you’re in the same room with him, it was surreal. If you would’ve told me he was a first-rounder, I would’ve said, ‘I don’t know.’ But give the kid credit. I wouldn’t bet against him.”

Before he suits up for the Dodgers, Hoese is headed to Arizona to get a few physicals and work out, and then he’ll receive his minor league assignment. He isn’t sure how long it’ll take for him to be called up to the big leagues, but he said he will continue to work hard because he doesn’t want draft day to be the pinnacle of his career.

Sue Hoese said her son has dreamed of playing in the MLB ever since he was a little boy and is certain he will do everything possible to make it happen just like he always has. According to her, Kody graduated with a top-10 grade-point-average from Griffith to give himself the best chance to receive a scholarship from a Division I college. And when he wasn’t studying, he dedicated the rest of his free time to working on his game.

“He’s already achieved his goal as far as getting drafted,” Sue Hoese said. “Getting to the big show would probably be the kicker for him.”

Just over three years ago, when he starred with the Panthers, Hoese couldn't envision his entire life changing with one phone call or joining a famed franchise. The Dodgers have won six World Series championships and retired 10 numbers, and he vowed to not waste his opportunity to carry on their legacy.

“I’ve never really been to LA, but I’m very excited to play at Dodger Stadium,” Hoese said. “You always hear about how the Dodgers are one of the best teams in the league, and they’re such a historic team. My mindset going forward is the same as it was in high school and college — the work isn’t done.”

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Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.