As Major League Baseball clubs reconvened last July to prepare to begin a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Logan O’Hoppe found himself in the midst of an opportunity he never could’ve imagined.
A former 28th-round pick in the 2018 draft, the young catcher was invited to join the Philadelphia Phillies player pool for “summer camp” at Citizens Bank Park to ramp back up ahead of the 60-game campaign. O’Hoppe had never played full-season ball as a professional. Yet, next thing he knew, he was catching alongside big leaguers such as All-Star J.T. Realmuto and working with the major-league coaching staff.
O’Hoppe understood he had much to learn from those around him in Philadelphia. As perhaps the most inexperienced person at camp, he knew he didn’t want to miss out on a single lesson that could help his development. To make sure he took away as much as possible, O’Hoppe turned to an old-fashioned strategy he’s used his whole career.
He wrote it all down in his notebook.
“I like to write a lot of things down, so I wrote everything down from last summer and each day early on in the year,” O’Hoppe said in an interview with Phillies Nation earlier this month.
O’Hoppe writes down thoughts on each aspect of the game — from tips from teammates to mechanical notes and what he’s thinking and feeling as he plays. He jots down the positives and the negatives, all in an effort to create “consistent thoughts,” which he sees as a key to success.
“When things are going right, I can go back to [the notes] and see, alright, this is what I was thinking during that time,” O’Hoppe said. “I also write down when things go bad too and how I’m feeling and what that’s like to try to balance out all my thoughts, because I’m a big believer that consistent thoughts lead to consistent action.”
It’s a habit he picked up after he signed with the Phillies organization in 2018 while working with Phillies mental performance coordinator Hannah Huesman and has used ever since.
“I remember one of my first presentations in spring training [in 2019], he was sitting there with a notepad, and he was one of the guys taking notes,” Phillies minor-league hitting coordinator Jason Ochart told Phillies Nation. “Then later on that day, he kind of sat down and said, ‘Hey, would you be willing to explain this more? I’m curious, and I’m not sure I totally grasp it.’
“I thought for a kid, who at that time was 19 years old, it was really advanced. And he does that with every aspect of his game, whether it’s catching with [catching coordinator] Ernie [Whitt] or pitch calling with the pitching guys. He’s just a sponge and he’s always looking to learn.”
O’Hoppe’s desire to learn left him with some important takeaways from summer camp. The major-league players taught him how to balance enjoying the game, but still putting the time and effort into improving. Not taking everything too seriously.
Once the regular season began, O’Hoppe was assigned to the Phillies’ alternate training site in Allentown. There he was again among the least experienced players in a group comprised of largely Triple-A talent.
O’Hoppe struggled offensively at the start of the intrasquad scrimmages held at Coca-Cola Park, but some collaboration with Ochart helped turn his performance around. They worked to improve his timing at the plate and cut down on his swings-and-misses. Those changes helped O’Hoppe unlock his power and become one of the top hitters at the site by the time training there wrapped up.
“I worked every day with him, and we really harped on a few mental adjustments and physical adjustments as well and kind of put it all together,” the catcher said. “I felt like I was in a good spot at the end of the summer and that stuff that I worked on with him last year is still stuff that I use today.”
O’Hoppe, now 21, took the adjustments with him into his first full pro season as the minor leagues returned this year. He kicked off 2021 with the High-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws as their everyday catcher, then received an unexpected promotion to Reading on Aug. 25 to finish the Double-A season. In 95 total games this season, O’Hoppe batted .274/.335/.462 with 16 home runs and — perhaps most importantly — a 17.3% strikeout rate.
“He’s been really impressive and very consistent. Week in and week out he puts together good [at-bats],” Ochart said. “And he’s improving, and I think that’s been the most promising thing. Especially because he’s improving in an area where I think a lot of people in the industry don’t think you can improve: That’s making more contact, bat-to-ball skill and the ability to not strike out and put balls in play. He’s shown the ability to improve those skills at a high level at a young age.”
This season has also provided some lessons for O’Hoppe in dealing with the ins and outs of an extended season and continuing to learn how to be more relaxed.
“He learns from those experiences, and I think that’s why we’ve seen him develop so well,” Ochart said. “The makeup is off the charts, and he’s the kind of guy that when he has failure, he’s going to learn from it. He’s going to become better from that failure, because he’s so so intelligent and so deliberate with his work. And I think that’s why we’re watching him really blossom into a good, young ballplayer.”
O’Hoppe’s season will come to an end on Sunday as Double-A wraps up its schedule, but he’ll enter the offseason as one of the more highly-touted catchers in the Phillies system. Evaluators feel that he has the tools to become a starting-level catcher in the majors one day if he continues on the same development path. But until that day comes, O’Hoppe will be sure to carry a pen with him along the way.
“I feel like I’ve grown and developed a lot in the past year,” he said. “But one thing that has remained a constant is that I feel like there’s always more to learn. You’ll never have it figured out, and I understand that. … I’m going to continue to go into each locker room with that approach, and hopefully I can continue to get as much information as I can out of the people around me.”
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