Professional. Hard-worker. Perseverance.
Those are just a few adjectives to describe Belton Wall of Fame member and Tiger Baseball alumnus Max Hogan.
Hogan, a 32nd round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles back in 2017, announced his retirement from professional baseball after his release from the organization.
“In November, I was released by the organization, and I spent the offseason in North Carolina,” Hogan said. “I was going through workouts, getting ready for next season. I had gotten release and I had to figure out if I wanted to keep playing. So, I talked to some buddies of mine about it. They said to continue the same training in the offseason just in case someone does call, so that you’ll be ready to go. So, I stayed up there, all the while trying to get picked back up. I just kept getting independent ball hits. That’s just not what I wanted to do. The end of January rolled around, I got to the point where I was done. I’ll miss my teammates and my friends, of that nature.”
Another recent Tigers Baseball alumnus went through something similar not too long ago. Former Tiger great and Rice Owl Shane Hoelscher was drafted in 2014 by the Colorado Rockies. He was released and picked up by the Orioles before leaving baseball at the end of the 2017 season.
“Shane was my mentor in high school, and we kept in touch through baseball,” Hogan said. “I reached out to him during the decision process. He said to make sure that it was what I wanted to do and that I was through.”
He was a member of the Belton Tigers Baseball program from 2009-2012 and was named All-State in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In his junior season of 2010, he hit .380 with eight homers and 50 runs batted in. In his senior season of 2011, he hit .467 with six home runs and 56 runs batted in.
“I was very fortunate to work with, and then coach, Max since he was in middle school,” former Tiger Baseball head coach Eddie Cornblum said. “He was always a player that showed unbelievable desire to improve on his game and be great in the moment. I look back at players we had, a lot of great work ethic guys. Max, to me, was in the top three. He stayed late, always wanted the extra work, and always wanted the keys to go hit. Character-wise, he was the best. Never showed emotion was things went bad, and never got too high when things were good. Played the game the right way, and respected the tradition of Belton Baseball. Obviously, I am a huge fan and couldn’t be happier for his accomplishments. His story is one that should be told for years. Last, and even more important today, I can call him my friend.”
“My first interaction with Max was when I was a senior in high school,” Tiger Baseball alumnus Seth Alcozer said. “He had a swing that was free and easy. Natural swing that was made for baseball. What I remember most, even at his early age, was that he was focused on two things: being a great teammate and learning everything he could about the game. I was appreciative of his love for being the guy who never seemed down, and always put the team above himself. He was the first to congratulate after a great play and worked just as hard as anybody on the field. He learned quickly what it took to become a great ballplayer.”
After his Tigers’ career, Hogan had stops at Dallas Baptist University, McLennan Community College, the University of Arkansas, and Missouri Southern State University.
“Mitch Thompson first recruited me when he was at Baylor and I went to MCC based on that relationship,” Hogan said. “I tell him to this day that he saved my baseball career. It was probably some of the best memories of playing baseball that I ever had. He holds a special place in my heart, as well as MCC. I think the thing that people need to know is that MCC is big-time, Division I baseball. This whole area of Texas junior college baseball…MCC, TC (Temple College), Hill (College), all the way to San Jac (Jacinto)…there are some good dudes out there all of the time. You see those guys go on to play a D-I schools.”
During his first year at Arkansas, Hogan suffered a concussion that forced him out of the lineup.
“So I get up there in the fall of 2014, junior year,” Hogan explained. “I had a really good fall. Was on a really good team with Andrew Benintendi, who everybody knows pretty well by now. I set myself up pretty nicely during the fall. Unfortunately, took a ball to the head before the season started in an intrasquad scrimmage. It put me out first few weeks of the season. So I was trying to maneuver my way back into the lineup because there some guys that were hot and they’re not going to be pulled out of the lineup. I finally got my chance to get in there and I played 14 or 15 games. I could tell that things were just not right and I was still having problems. I ended up missing the remainder of the year.”
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn saw the potential in Hogan and wanted to keep him close to the team. He made Hogan a first-base coach.
“It was a huge blessing,” Hogan said. “What Coach Van Horn and the staff did for me and said ‘This sucks what’s going on for you. We’d like for you to say on, help us coach, and finish your degree.’ It was an adjustment at first because they moved my locker into the coach’s locker room. So, I was in with them on a daily basis. Meanwhile, my three roommates that I lived with were players in the locker room. We’re boys, so it was an adjustment at first. You’re almost a mediator at first. There were guys that I was ‘coaching’ either older than I was or had more experience than I did, playing in the S.E.C. So I tried to navigate at first to: 1) Be someone the guys could talk to, and 2) To relay to the guys things that the coaches might not have been able to see.”
He transferred to Missouri Southern State to play in 2017 and had the best year of his collegiate career. He hit .390 (78-of-200) with 59 runs scored, 15 homers, 59 runs batted in, scored 59 runs, stroked 20 doubles and three triples, drew 50 walks and stole 15 bases, as he registered a career-high .528 on-base percentage.
“Super grateful to the MSSU guys taking a chance on me because I hadn’t played a game in nearly two years,” Hogan said. “There was no telling what was going to happen. They were like ‘Yeah, we’ll take him and see what happens.’ The only reason that I went there because they were an hour from Fayetteville. My plan then was that I graduated, and Fayetteville was home, being there three years. If it didn’t work out, I would go right back there, get a job and start my career. Fortunately, things worked out and I can’t describe it to this day.”
In 135 collegiate games, he hit .351 (157-of-447), with 18 home runs, 105 runs batted in, 115 runs scored, 38 doubles, nine triples, 39 stolen bases, 22 hit by pitches, and 95 walks. He struck out just 70 times in 447 at-bats and had an on-base percentage of .479.
He also had stops in summer league baseball with College Park (FL) and El Dorado (KS), hitting .254 (61-of-240) with three home runs, 20 runs batted in, 37 runs scored, 12 doubles, a triple, 30 walks, 10 hit by pitches, and 13 stolen bases.
The Orioles came calling in 2017, selecting Hogan with their 32nd pick in the Major League Baseball Draft.
“When I started this journey, when the doctor told me he’d get me back playing again, I didn’t go with the intentions of just going and finishing my career,” Hogan explained. “I went back with the intention of getting drafted. That’s just what I wanted to do. I knew at the time that I was a fifth-year senior, that I was 23, and that the odds were greatly stacked against me. And then, even getting drafted and getting into pro ball was going to be stacked against me as well. But, I knew it’s something I had to do and wanted to pursue. And I did it because I had prior draft interest at MCC and at Arkansas, too. I knew it was always a possibility and I wanted to make it a reality.”
In stops with the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League rookie team in Sarasota, FL., Delmarva in the South Atlantic League (Low-A) in Salisbury, Md., and Frederick (Md.) in the Carolina League (High-A), Hogan hit .258 (69-of-267) with four home runs, 45 runs batted in, 19 doubles, five triples, 43 walks, and three stolen bases in 82 career games. He had a solid on-base percentage, ending his career with a .369 OBP. He was named to the Gulf Coast League All-Star in 2017.
He was also a solid fielder, registering 54 putouts and 74 assists, while he committed just two errors (.985 fielding percentage).
“The Gulf Coast League experience was one of the most unique experiences,” Hogan said. “We got really lucky, because our Gulf Coast group was half young guys and half college guys. So, we just had a blast together. It’s a grind down there and it was different than other affiliates, for sure. You’re playing in Sarasota, so you’re playing in the baking sun every day. You find out just how much that you really love baseball. The experience was amazing, and I have friends and coaches from the team that will be friends for the rest of my life and will probably be in my wedding.”
Hogan moved up to DelMarVa after Spring Training in 2018, and then to Frederick later in the season.
Belton’s baseball program learned a great deal from Hogan being around the field. Hogan’s brother, Joey, is also a Tiger baseball alumnus. Both played under the watchful eye of Cornblum, but under Belton’s current bench boss.
“Max was one of the best players on and off the field that I have ever coached,” Belton head coach Mark Krueger, who was the Tigers’ assistant in Hogan’s high school playing day. “He exemplified what a Belton Tiger baseball player should be. When Aaron was young and coming to practices after school, I would always tell him to watch Max because Max did all the little things right. Catching with two hands, running hard to first, hustling on and off the field, staying after practice to hit extra, etc. I wanted my son to play the game like Max.”
While college ball was big in Hogan’s life, the experience of summer ball in Florida’s Collegiate League and Jayhawk League were great memories
“If players have the chance to play college baseball, play summer league ball,” Hogan said. “You get to stay with a host family and you’re on a team with 20 other guys from all different schools from all over the country. Those summers were so much fun, and I still keep in contact with my host families. From a success standpoint, it was a great deal of fun.”
Hogan is a big believer in the weight room and keeping in shape for his next opportunity. He has gone to work giving private lessons at the Central Texas Baseball Academy with fellow Tiger Baseball alumnus, Jonathan Farrow.
“As far as the baseball side of things, that will be my part-time job for now,” Hogan said. “Lessons…working with teams…that’s the way that I want to give back right now. Coaching high school or college maybe down the road. But, I can’t go a season without being around the game in some sort of fashion. With how much coaches gave to me, how much my parents (George and Penny) gave to me, and other people gave to me, it would be a disservice to them if I didn’t give back through the knowledge and the experiences that I picked up along the way.”
“Now that he’s ending his career, I believe every kid should learn from him,” Alcozer said. “I consider it a privilege to have been there to witness the beginnings of his baseball career and know he will be great in his next endeavors. He is another that is added to the list of great Belton High School baseball players.”