Logan O’Hoppe was a 9-year-old Yankees die-hard when they toppled the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He grew up on Long Island, frequented Yankee Stadium, and even threw a visiting home-run ball back from the upper deck a month before he was drafted by the Phillies in 2018.
O’Hoppe, now a 21-year-old catching prospect, said he could probably still rattle off the 2009 Yankees roster.
“I lived and breathed that team,” O’Hoppe said.
So, imagine how O’Hoppe felt this year at spring training in Clearwater, Fla., when he was playing for Joe Girardi, the manager who steered those Yankees past the Phils. A year after that World Series win, O’Hoppe had met Girardi at a radio event in Manhattan, and a signed baseball from that day is the only piece of memorabilia he has at his family’s home.
A decade later, O’Hoppe met Girardi again, this time in a big-league ballpark. Once his idol, Girardi was now O’Hoppe’s manager for a few weeks before the Phillies started last season. Earlier this week, Girardi even said O’Hoppe has what it takes to be “a front-line catcher.”
“Coming from a guy like that means a lot to me because I have so much respect for him and all that he’s done in his career as a player and a manager,” O’Hoppe said. “That’s pretty humbling to hear that. It was pretty cool to get to play for Joe the first time.”
O’Hoppe will be with the high-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws when the minor league season opens Tuesday. He spent a few weeks this spring in big-league camp with Girardi and played in 10 Grapefruit League games before transitioning to minor league camp. He homered against the Yankees in March and impressed the Phillies despite having played just 79 minor league games.
Those impressions continued in minor league camp as he was honored Wednesday with the Bill Giles Award, given each spring to a domestic minor leaguer who has “a love and respect for the game of baseball, an outstanding work ethic and pride in being a member of the Phillies organization.”
Johan Rojas, an outfield prospect, won the Larry Rojas Award, given each spring for the same reasons to an international minor leaguer. Girardi said last month that Rojas has the potential to be a Gold Glove winner.
“He’s obviously a talented player,” Girardi said of O’Hoppe. “You don’t win that award if you’re not. But I was really impressed with how the game didn’t speed up on him. Like being a young kid who hadn’t really played a whole lot, it looked like he belonged with us. I would say his heartbeat really stuck out to me.
“Defensively, I think he’s going to be really good, too. I think he has a chance to really hit. He’s a physical presence who I think has power and good arm strength. He moves around back there really well and frames well. I think this is a guy who can be a front-line catcher as well.”
O’Hoppe has yet to play a full minor league season since being drafted out of high school in the 23rd round. He spent the second half of 2018 in rookie ball and the second half of 2019 in short-season Class A. He has hit .277 with a .783 OPS in 301 plate appearances.
Last summer would have been his first taste of full-season minor league ball, but the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of the season. However, his summer was not wasted.
O’Hoppe was picked to be with the Phillies for summer camp at Citizens Bank Park as an extra catcher and then spent two months at the alternate site in Allentown. Not only did O’Hoppe meet Girardi again last summer, but he also worked next to J.T. Realmuto, the game’s premier catcher.
That education continued this spring in Clearwater.
The Phillies have Realmuto under contract for five more seasons, but O’Hoppe is not dismayed about his position being claimed through 2025.
“I know my age, and I know how it goes usually,” said O’Hoppe, who will be 26 when Realmuto’s contract expires. “I look at it more as, ‘How lucky am I to have a guy like that who I can hopefully learn from for the next five years?’ Especially this year in camp, I learned a ton from him, and he helped me more than he knows.
“I learned a ton from the mechanical side of catching and different things with dealing with pitchers. But anyone who knows him or has been around him knows how good of a professional he is. Those intangible things that kind of get overlooked by most people are the things that I took away.”
O’Hoppe has been in Florida since February and said he’s looking forward to new surroundings. He bypassed low-A Clearwater, and he’ll be the everyday catcher for the BlueClaws.
O’Hoppe said he wants to cut down on his strikeouts this season after he struck out 49 times in 45 games in 2019 with short-season Class A Williamsport. During his time in big league camp, O’Hoppe said he learned to simplify the game and was reminded to have fun.
His climb toward Philadelphia is just beginning. But if O’Hoppe gets there, he could be playing for the manager he once rooted for. And that manager is now a fan of his.
“I can’t wait to just have a clean slate,” O’Hoppe said of the new minor league season. “It’s such a fresh start. We haven’t had that in over a year, and it’s something that I did take for granted a little bit. Just the bus rides and the locker room and being around the guys. All that stuff that I realized I took for granted. This year, I can’t wait to get back to that.”