Bringing with him a World Series ring and a collection of stories representing the six MLB teams of which he has been a part of, members of the Oklahoma Christian University baseball team heard wisdom from someone serving in the sports’ highest capacity at its annual banquet Jan 11.
Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch, uncle to senior infielder Garrett Wages, led the Astros to a 2017 World Series title, and formerly played catcher for the Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to joining the Astros, Hinch managed the Arizona Diamondbacks and was the vice president of professional scouting for the San Diego Padres.
In his banquet speech to the Oklahoma Christian baseball team, Hinch shared words of advice to the Eagles “as if they were on his own roster.”
“You have got to believe it before you see it,” Hinch said. “You’ve got to prepare like you’ve never prepared, and you have got to play games like an elimination game, even if they’re not.”
Flaunting his World Series ring and sharing anecdotes regarding the passion that Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve plays with, Hinch went on to retell Altuve’s rise to major league stardom.
“He couldn’t hit,” Hinch said. “He couldn’t throw, he wasn’t strong, he could run a little, but he was dismissed. But he kept coming back for more. He told everyone he would play for free.”
Using this experience, he related it to the Oklahoma Christian roster in a way to magnify work ethic, role execution and love for the game. Altuve, despite the negatives mentioned, later became an American League MVP and has appeared in multiple All-Star games, exemplifying his grit.
Hinch also went into detail about the rebuilding process, not only from an organizational standpoint as he was hired after the Astros had multiple 90-loss seasons, but from a community perspective after catastrophe struck in the form of Hurricane Harvey.
“The city rallied around us, and we rallied around them,” Hinch said. “We were really the only sense of hope. It was a guilty feeling of playing a baseball game when a block away, someone’s house is under water. The World Series championship was the first ever in Houston, and the story of it surrounding the storm will last forever.”
Prior to his speech, Hinch thanked former coaches Chuck White and Jerry Long, who taught him how to catch at the high school level. During the same time frame, Hinch won the Gatorade Player of the Year award and was recruited by Stanford University.
While at Stanford, he played for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, receiving a bronze medal. He played in seven major league seasons. He started with the Oakland A’s (1998-2000), then went to the Kansas City Royals (2001-2002), Detroit Tigers (2003) and finally finished his playing career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004.
Before making his way to the Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks hired him as their manager in 2009, where he remained on staff for two seasons.
Wages, Hinch’s nephew, in his own senior speech at the banquet, said Hinch inspired him and kept him in the game.
“To AJ, you’ve always inspired me,” Wages said. “Growing up, I dreamed of being like you, and if it wasn’t for you, I’m not sure if I would still be playing baseball.”
Hinch’s experiences and insight have the Oklahoma Christian baseball team primed for the start of its 2019 season. The Eagles’ opening day will commence across town at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wendell Simmons Field against Pittsburg State University on Feb. 1 at 10:00 a.m.
The Astros will begin their season April 5 against the Oakland A’s at 7:10 p.m.