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Bulldog to Bulldog, Beckley to Beckley

CHS' Hoke signs with The Citadel

Posted: May 20, 2014 11:56 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Grey Hoke saw his stock soar after he threw a three-hitter at A.C. Flora which played a large role in Camden’s 2-1 win on April 4.
Following that performance against the top-ranked Falcons, the Bulldog left-hander and his head coach, Denny Beckley, were fielding calls from schools from throughout the region. Those newcomers to the party, though, were still way behind the recruiting efforts of The Citadel.
The Southern Conference entry started keeping tabs on the 6-foot-3 Hoke during his junior season and sent at assistant coach to watch Hoke, in person, as he pitched in Camden’s season opener at A.C. Flora in Columbia. That persistence paid off with Hoke’s decision to attend The Citadel. He will officially sign his National Letter of Intent with Fred Jordan’s Bulldogs in June.
By announcing his intention to play baseball for and attend The Citadel, Hoke bypassed offers from fellow Charleston Division I programs College of Charleston and Charleston Southern, along with other schools from the region.
When it came time for Hoke to decide, he said he remembered which school and coaches were there with him from the start of his recruitment.
“At the first A.C. Flora game, Coach Beckley (Citadel assistant David) came out and watched me,” Hoke said. “I threw pretty well that night and he offered me. Then, a couple other schools started biting and it just exploded from there. I was just really fortunate that he came down to watch that first game down there.”
For Grey Hoke, this will be his second stint playing under a member of the Beckley family as 13th year Citadel associate head coach David Beckley is the brother of Camden High head coach Denny Beckley. That familiarity as to what to expect at The Citadel may have played a role in Hoke’s final decision.
“I think that he feels comfortable with the connection of my brother being on the staff,” said the CHS boss. “Obviously, I’m a little biased and I need to be careful here, but we are very similar in the way we treat our players and Grey has done a lot of good things here and I think it’s kind of ironic that he chose to go to another school where there is another connection with ‘The Bulldog Way.’ I think he has a great opportunity to progress because of that.”
Hoke said the chance to play Division I baseball and for a coaching staff which he has gotten to know over the course of the season was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“I felt like it was the right fit for me,” he said of his final decision on a college. “I’ve always been a fan of working hard and I felt the coaches are going to look after me there. I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
He said the presence of David Beckley did not hurt The Citadel’s chances, either.  “It helps a lot because I know that I’ll have somebody close to me if I ever have any problems,” Hoke said. “I also know that he’ll push me to be the best that I can be. I’m looking forward to helping them down there.”
Hoke heads to The Citadel after a senior season in which he went 5-1 with a save. Two of those victories came over A.C. Flora and a late season win against Chapin to help lock down second place in the conference. Hoke worked 54 innings, fanning 63 batters and pitched to a team-best 2.33 earned run average.
With a fastball which hovers in the low 80s, Hoke was a pitcher who worked both sides of the plate and used a slider and a changeup in his repertoire which kept batters guessing. Hoke said he needs to continuing fine-tuning his off-speed pitches while hoping that working in the weight room will help add a few miles to hour to his fastball.
 “Obviously,” he said, “I have to pick up the velocity a bit. I’m hoping to be able to do that after I get down there and get into the strength and conditioning program.
“I’ve always been able to hit both sides of the plate pretty well; go inside and outside. I have a pretty decent slider and my changeup has been coming along. I still have a long way to go to get where I need to be to play at the Division I level.
“I don’t consider myself a power pitcher, quite yet. I guess I’m more of a crafty lefty. I have pretty decent movement on my fastball, a decent changeup and a decent slider. But there is room for improvement; I need to get on that.”
Hoke said he hopes to add 15 to 20 pounds to his current 180-pound frame. By doing that, he said, it will give him and his pitches more momentum in going toward the plate.
“The biggest key with Grey is whether he will be able to extend his velocity,” Denny Beckley said of his departing staff ace. “If he can get to about 85 to 86 miles an hour, than he can be a guy who can do some really great things.”
Beckley credited Hoke’s working with Camden High pitching coach Zach Rabon as one of the most important parts in the development of a lefty who was kept on the junior varsity team as a sophomore in order to get more innings under his belt before being promoted to the varsity as a junior.
While saying Hoke could have pitched for his team as a sophomore, Beckley felt the best move was to let Hoke continue to develop and work on his mechanics with the junior varsity.
“Grey really had a great year with the jayvee team and it carried over to his junior year and he just got better,” Beckley said. “Coach Rabon did a tremendous job with Grey as far as teaching him the finer aspects of holding runners, when to slide-step and when to go from the wind-up and those kinds of things.
“And Grey really did a lot of things on his own. A huge amount of the credit goes to his character, his determination and his work ethic for his ability to continue to learn and get better.”
Hoke said he looks to continue on his upward path at The Citadel and will bring all those positive qualities his high school coach talked about with him to Charleston.
 “Especially at The Citadel, it’s going to be tough down there, especially the first week,” he said of the challenges he will face both on and off the field. “It will be good for me in the long run. I’m sure there is going to be a lot more intense training and lifting. It’s going to be a lot more serious because there are people’s jobs involved; Winning’s a big deal down there. I just want to help keep the tradition going.”
One thing which Beckley said both he and The Citadel coaching staff liked was Hoke’s approach to the game and not shying away from a battle, something which were the hallmarks of his two varsity seasons.
“One of the things which really impressed The Citadel was Grey’s ability to pitch in tough situations,” Beckley said. “If you go back and look to our interviews after almost all of his games, it seemed like every time we talked about his being able to make big pitches in big spots.
“Grey doesn’t fold under the pressure. He’s a guy who shows a lot of grit and determination and who will fight you ‘til the end. Those are qualities that a lot of guys who may have a little more velocity and a little more talent may not necessarily have but which show up with Grey.”
One thing which Hoke expects at the next level is the batters he faces will be much better than those at the high school level. With that in mind, he said his accuracy and control need to stay on an upward trend. And should he add some zing to his fastball, even better for a young player of whom Beckley said has a high ceiling.
“Grey is 6-foot-3 and he continues to work hard,” Beckley said of Hoke’s transitioning to the college game. “He had a big jump in the weight room this year but he’s not nearly as strong as somebody with a normal 6-foot-3 frame. He’s one of those guys who has developed later with his strength. With a great strength program like The Citadel has, it will only enhance his ability to get stronger.
 “He was pursued by a lot of smaller schools and he had some very good offers. When he went down and visited The Citadel, he liked what he saw. More than anything, though, he feels comfortable with the coaching staff and he feels like they’re going to give him a fair shake. All Grey wants is an opportunity and with some of the other schools, there was a lot of questioning as to whether or not he was quite good enough. Grey felt that The Citadel never brought that to the table; they always talked about it might take him a little while to develop, but they would give him that opportunity he wants.”

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