LYNCHBURG - Johnny Cash's "I've Been Every Where Man" should be James Hoyt's sound track. The 6-foot-6 pitcher who played baseball and basketball growing up, is from Boise, Idaho, went to Palomar Junior College in San Diego, finished school at Centenary College in Louisiana and then went back west after not getting drafted by a major league affiliate. "Obviously coming out of junior college I was like I'm a big guy, maybe some 'projectability', someone might give me a chance but it didn't work out," Hoyt said Tuesday afternoon.
Instead he moved back out west and worked on sail boats in San Diego. "Not a bad job man. I liked it. It was not a bad gig at all."
When he wasn't working he helped out a high school team and heard about an independent league tryout. "Jose Canseco was there. He was coaching the Yuma (Arizona) Scorpions and they drafted me out of the work out." Hoyt finished a season with them. That club then folded prior to the start of the 2012 season so he moved to Texas to play for the Edinburg Roadrunners. Shortly after that he went north into Kansas to play for the Wichita Wing Nuts. He threw one shutout inning and then oddly, didn't pitch again for a week. At the end of that week a friend from Arizona helped get his name out and as a result, Hoyt was signed by a team in the Mexican League, a league he compares to Triple-A in the U.S. That's where he caught his big break while playing for the Olmecas de Tabasco in Villahermosa, Mexico. "I had a great time down there. I wouldn't be where I am now if I wouldn't have taken that chance and gone," Hoyt said.
An Atlanta Braves scout had an eye on him and ended up signing him to a contract in November of last year. "I was pretty excited just to get that opportunity. It took me a while to get there."
At spring training, pitching coach Derek Botelho said, "All that I heard and gathered from our people in spring training was - very raw, very raw but has ability."
After spring training he was sent to the Hillcats where the average age for a player in the Carolina League is 22. "I throw age out the window. I know he's 26. We put him in a rocking chair in the clubhouse. No, no, no. I think he fits right in. I throw that out because of the fact that some guys develop, some guys blossom later in life," Botelho said.
Prior to Tuesday night's game, Hoyt, who was described as a quiet leader with a sense of humor, very professional, and a hard worker, had thrown 16 straight scoreless innings. "In spring training I was trying to throw it by everyone and strike everyone out and now I kind of backed off from that and it's working," Hoyt said.
Fellow pitcher and roommate Navery Moore said, "I think that's the main thing you see with any player is once they're given the opportunity to get here you can take advantage of it and that's what James has been doing."
As a roommate Moore said Hoyt is "awesome, always cleaning the dishes before I can get to them so our place is really clean."
Aside from his cleanliness, Botelho said already at this level (Class A-Advanced), Hoyt has two major league ready pitches - a 94 to 96 mile an hour fastball and an above average slider. "I think [if] he keeps doing what he's doing you're not going to see him in Lynchburg very long, Botelho added.
Before he makes the next move Botelho has him working on a number of things including his pick-off move, holding on a runner, logging some innings, getting consistent out of the stretch, and shutting down the running game. From spring training to now, Hoyt has developed quickly. His mound awareness has improved and he's made positive adjustments. "He's getting it," Botelho said.
The end goal is to pitch in the big leagues but for now he said, "I'm just kind of enjoying the ride. Just keep the jersey on."
Not a bad way to earn a living.
*The video portion of this story will air Thursday on ABC 13 News at 6 p.m.