Pursuing the Dream

Pursuing the Dream at Narrow Path Sports

Life throws curve balls! It has been a very wild week for me personally at Narrow Path Sports. Spring has finally sprung, and I am now down in Lexington, KY where I will be serving as a player/pitching coach. This was in the works for most of the winter but there was part of me that didn’t know or think it was going to happen. I spent my season last year with the Lexington Legends where we won the Atlantic League Championship. It was a unique year for me because it was my first foray into independent league baseball. My love of baseball and the game has never faded but sometimes external circumstances can interfere with that love, and I had let that get to me these past 3-5 years. I am thankful though to be entering my 15 season as a professional baseball player and I will give you some insight into my path here and be a little vulnerable in the process.

Do You Have What It Takes To Be Great?

I have spoken about the dedication and hard work it takes to be a professional baseball player and to be honest a pro in any field. I had lived that life, made those choices, and sacrificed to pursue my dreams and goals. I let comfort and distractions take me away from the important aspects of training along with some of the business aspects of the sport. It really made me not enjoy the running, lifting, throwing, arm care, yoga, eating healthy, abstaining from alcohol, and the other aspects it takes to be a world class athlete.

Complacent is a word I steer away from because it hurts when I think about it or say it out loud. When we get too comfortable, relax our habits, or dare I say complacent we start to fade from our peak. Looking back now I obviously would have changed how I handled things to a certain degree but to be honest if you don’t go through failure or educate yourself on others mistakes you will never learn for yourself. Sometimes these lessons can have an enduring sting that becomes a dark cloud in my thoughts, but I have my faith and knowledge that I can push forward and make the commitment to be better. This is what I want to teach to my young athletes that I train. It takes all these things to become something great whether it be baseball or any other career.

Narrow Path Embodies Committment to Training

This year will pose some new challenges to overcome but I am embracing this, and I am very excited to continue playing. I have made a commitment to become a professional athlete and live the lifestyle of a professional athlete that I embodied in my early career. I still have a long road to go to get where I want to be, but I do think I can perform at a very high level again. This has become a goal for me but also to continue to learn so I can offer the very best teaching and training to my athletes. I can experiment with some new training methodologies to see if something can improve my performance. I have always been a lead by example guy, and I want to take that into this season. This is the best accountability I can have, and it is with my readers, my athletes, and their families. My friends and family are important too, but it is something about the public arena that turns up the intensity.

I have always been a lead by example guy, and I want to take that into this season.

This season I will be doing my best to keep you all abreast of how this season is going, what I am up to, and what is new at Narrow Path Sports. I am excited to walk along this season with my athletes with the only negative of me playing is that I cannot be there to watch and train my guys on a more consistent basis. Thankfully there are excellent cameras on our phones now and I will be utilizing video and streaming to help make mechanical adjustments from afar as well as getting back to the Cincinnati area as often as I can to do some bullpen tune-ups. I do want to say thank you to my guys that have worked with me and are continuing to train with me. You all give me so much joy! Please reach out if there is anything you would like me to cover or talk about. I will be giving an insight into my training and life in hopes that it can be educational.

Thank you all and as always #FollowtheNarrowPath

The Four Driving Forces of Narrow Path Sports

The Four Driving Forces of Narrow Path Sports

Hello and hope you all have had a great week so far.  Today we are going to jump in and talk about how I go about my training programs and how I approach pitching.  I hope this will give some insight into what my athletes will get and interest you into either coming on board or asking questions if you are not local to my area.  

Pitching has really evolved as has the game of baseball these last 10 years.  Analytics have come to crowd the narrative, and everything comes back to metrics and data.  I just don’t think this is the complete way to treat a sport as nuanced as baseball.  Yes, some of these tools are helpful and have helped get guys opportunities they may not have gotten before but it has also hurt other careers as well.  I think some of this new information and technology can help guys train but cannot be the final say in if someone is going to be successful.  There are always outliers and I think baseball has more than few greats that do not fit into the cookie cutter mold of this modern analytic system.

"I want to meet each athlete where they are at, embrace what makes them unique and help draw out what they each do well."

Each athlete and human are built and wired differently.  That is why I think putting people into these molds is harmful to many careers in my opinion.  When I start working with a new athlete, I want to see how each person moves and performs.  There are certain things that need to line up, but I think if you sit back and watch a baseball game from a while back you can see the differences in pitching styles and batting approaches.  I want to meet each athlete where they are at, embrace what makes them unique and help draw out what they each do well.  Trying to get every pitcher to have the same band of spin rate or horizontal break and tilt on a slider is foolish. Those are just some of the examples and not an exhaustive list.  Yes, it may work for pitcher A but pitcher B could be taller or shorter and a non-traditional or less than ideal pitch under the new analysis might be why he shines.  There is a reason high quality scouts are so valuable, and I believe still are.  I want to see what each athlete may excel at and what makes him stand out.  

Narrow Path is a convergence of Technology and Training

I can rant on this new system, but I do think that the pendulum will swing back. Then we may have the right combo of new and old school mentalities merge and bring forth a great era of baseball and pitching. That is how I love to approach what I do when I am training pitchers.  I think a lot of success can be obtained by merging some of the tools and technology with some staples that have worked for a long time.  My best coaches would use different phrases to try and teach a certain movement or mechanical adjustment.  That is something that I have also had success within my instruction style.  Rapsodo or Trackman can be a nice hint of things that are going on with a pitcher’s delivery or pitch but seeing how a hitter reacts to a certain pitcher also show things technology cannot.  

The Four Driving Forces of Narrow Path Sports

When it comes to my training, I want to make sure each of my athletes is equipped for their season.  I teach a complete body warm up routine.  This helps to prime our bodies for the act of pitching.  This can reduce the chance of injury while also making sure their bodies are moving efficiently so the athlete can deliver the most explosive mechanics possible. 

Next I work each athlete through a series of mechanics based throwing drills.  This helps set the athlete up for success when they get on the mound of a bullpen session. 

After the bullpen and throwing session is complete, I guide each athlete through an arm care and strengthening program.  This is a staple that I see performed improperly on a regular basis.  Have a strong foundation for throwing is very low hanging fruit that can and will pay massive dividends in the long run. 

These are my three foundational parts of my sessions with my athletes.  A final thing that I love to do is go over some of the mental aspects of the game.  Talking through game situations or what pitch to throw in a certain count is the chess match part of baseball that I absolutely love.  Complete baseball players and pitchers are what I am striving to help build as well as strong young men.

These are big driving forces for me in my approach.  It comes down to offering a service that I did not have access to when I was a young athlete.  I hope this helps you see a bit into what I am offering and doing here and if you have any questions feel free to reach out ask me anything.  Please consider subscribing to my email updates. As always #FollowTheNarrowPath

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Laying Out The Narrow Path Athlete Mindset

Hi there and I hope you have had a good week thus far.  This week’s article is going to feature what the Narrow Path is for me and my athletes and some of the methods that I use in my instruction. 

When I was contemplating the name and direction, I wanted to take Narrow Path Sports I went over many different names and meanings.  A few contenders did arise in my design process, but I eventually settled with Narrow Path. The Narrow Path has a couple of different meanings to me and points to a couple of different aspects of life.

The Meaning Behind Narrow Path Sports

First, I will talk about Narrow Path’s greatest meaning to me and then I will explain how it applies to the athlete lifestyle as well. I have already explained that I am a Christian and following Jesus is how I try to live my life even though I slip up and make plenty of mistakes, but I am thankful for His grace.  This may come across strong in our world today or the concept may be right at home for some of you.  My faith is how I choose to live my life and I don’t subject or push my beliefs on those around me or my athletes.  I am however always willing to discuss and chat about them if asked or in good conversation.  I am not ashamed of my trust and faith in God.  As I explained in my other articles, I plan to be working and growing year by year with my athletes, and I am continually thankful for the lifelong friendships baseball has provided and will continue to provide.

Now what does this Narrow Path mean? In both the Christian and Athlete life the way to the end is a narrow path. The percentage of people that become and stay professional athletes is extraordinarily small.  Some are just blessed with insane amounts of natural talent and athleticism but even those most gifted must work at their craft and the ones that combine hard work with their gifts end up becoming some of the best to compete in their sport. In my experience and learning from other athletes that pursue being in the top of their field it comes down to living our lives as a professional athlete. This means eating a diet that helps our bodies perform and recover. Staying on top of our workouts and continuing to challenge what our bodies can do by getting stronger, more explosive, and faster to be at our peak as long as we can.  This also comes down to choosing to do the activities off the field that will benefit our time on it as well. That path is the Narrow Path

Not everyone has the drive, motivation, and dedication to stay committed to that purpose or desire. Those that can walk and live in this way will have the greatest chance of success. As I mentioned above though and even in my own career and life we can stumble, take a wrong turn, and choose to do things that are not in line with that lifestyle.  The faster we can acknowledge our error, have a mentor or friend’s guidance and get back to that path the better off we are.  These are some of the aspects of what it takes to be a great athlete but even better is that these traits translate into any profession and field.

In my walk as a Christian, it did take me some time to find the path of life.  This path is similar in ways that we are called to be and live differently than the world.

A Calling To Be And Live Differently

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

This is a tough passage to read but it is so true in both aspects.  I am not forcing my views on you, and I ask that you think about this from the standpoint of achieving something great in sports or life. The Narrow Path is one not many are willing to tread.  If you want to talk about this passage from a faith standpoint by all means, please reach out and contact me.  

I do my best to make this a part of my daily life.  Like I mentioned before I mess up more times than I can count both from a sinful standpoint and a life one as well.  I refuse to let those trip ups define me or set me back permanently.  I am not responsible for picking myself up and getting back on track every time either. I mentioned above having a good mentor or friend be there for when we fall, trip, or get lost.  These loved ones in your life are instrumental.  I hope this gives some insight into how the Narrow Path can be of importance and why I settled on this name.  I did mention about some of the training methods I use but I think I am going to save that for next week.  This has been a heavy post and we will start to get into the meat and potatoes of baseball and pitching in the coming weeks.  I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions please reach out. Also, if you would like to get email updates on when new articles post please sign up for our email list. 

Thank you and as always #FollowtheNarrowPath

Planning for the Future of Narrow Path Sports

What I Learned From Pro Baseball

Welcome back to Narrow Path Sports and my introduction series.  Last week I covered a little bit about who I am and what my journey in baseball has been thus far.  Today I want to share what Narrow Path Sports is to me and what I want it to grow into.  

I have loved working with youth athletes for as long as I can remember.  Even after I was first drafted in 2008 by the Atlanta Braves, I was offering lessons in my local area of Elizabeth Pennsylvania. As my pro career developed, I stopped offering paid lessons and took my off-season training more seriously that it did not allow time to build that service back then.  I did however start doing volunteer work during the seasons in the cities I played in.  I would do events with Miracle League, a league for disabled kids to play baseball,  and work with the MLB RBI academies and other programs that worked with at-risk youth while playing the game of baseball.  These are some of my fondest memories of my MLB and MiLB career.  Baseball is in my opinion the greatest sport and I say that because it means the most to me not because it’s the greatest out of all of them. Each sport has its merits and I enjoy watching athletes compete and perform in all of them but bringing communities, families, and strangers together to enjoy playing and watching baseball is a truly beautiful experience.  

"I can fill up my hours with athletes that want to hone that aspect of the game."

These last few years I have regained the focus and desire to start training athletes again.  I am still actively playing and will soon be embarking on my 15th season of professional baseball, but I am excited to grow Narrow Path Sports so when that day comes, and I stop playing professionally I will have a full-time passion to step into.  Currently I offer individual training, semi-private training, and small group training.  I focus more on pitching because that is my true passion, and I can fill up my hours with athletes that want to hone that aspect of the game. Eventually, I will be leading small group throwing sessions that will really dive into building arm strength and throwing prowess but that will begin this next fall in October/November of 2022 alongside my individualized training.  

Our Vision for the Best in Class Training

I want Narrow Path Sports to be what I wish I had access to when I was going through grade school and more, way more. NPS is going to have a clubhouse atmosphere with a family aspect tied in.  The athletes will be there to get after it, work hard, and build each other up.  I get so jacked up when I see an athlete execute the change they have been working on and begin the process of committing it to muscle memory. Technology will have a place, but it will not be the only note being played in the training programs.  Some pretty amazing tools have been developed and can really help a pitcher develop certain aspects of their game. Be it release angle, spin axis, velocity, and break of each pitch but it cannot replace the repetition of throwing those pitches without looking to a computer for the answers. When we compete in-game there is not a computer there to tell you what you may or may not have done wrong, the will to compete and the hours of training are what get you through game situations. 

Narrow Path Grows Together With Athletes

One of the best parts about working with an athlete or young man is getting to come alongside them as they mature and grow up.  I pray I am blessed with lifelong relationships with these athletes and their families.  Watching as a beginner in the sport learns the fundamentals, sharpens their skills and becomes more proficient year after year as they develop, learning the more advanced facets of pitching and the game is what I am going to cherish.  Especially as some of those athletes will achieve goals of playing in college and hopefully even in the professional ranks.  Not everyone is built and destined to play sports at advanced levels but that does not mean that the foundation of working hard to get better, determination through difficulty, and success and failure will not translate into other realms of life.  These life skills will pay dividends in any job or endeavor. 

"I pray I am blessed with lifelong relationships with these athletes and their families."

I hope this article has given you some insight into what I am striving for and creating.  Will you step onto the Narrow Path with me? Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.  Just because we may not live close by does not mean I am not available to help.  For those of you in the greater Cincinnati area, Northern Kentucky, and Indiana if you are looking for a different take on pitching training come see me! Next week I am going to touch on the meaning of the Narrow Path and introduce some aspects of my training program. Stay tuned, please subscribe to my email, and as always #FollowtheNarrowPath

Welcome to Narrow Path Sports

Hi there and welcome to Narrow Path Sports! My name is JJ Hoover and I am excited to welcome you to my site and business. I am inviting you to read and learn who I am and what Narrow Path Sports will become in this introduction series. I have been playing baseball professionally since 2008. As I embark upon my 15th year as a professional athlete I have been blessed to go through many ups and downs in my career. I absolutely still have the desire to compete at a high level, but I have also been in a position to mentor and coach in these 5-6 years.  I love working with young athletes and helping them become the best versions of themselves and maximizing their potential.  First I would love to introduce myself and a little of my history before telling you what Narrow Path Sports will be. 

Why Baseball is My Passion

Baseball and specifically pitching has been my passion for as long as I can remember.  Growing up I told my dad very early on that I wanted to be a Major league baseball player but more importantly a pitcher! Pitching has been my grandest love since I first started playing Americas past time.  There is something about being 1 on 1 against a hitter and the artistry of throwing Fastballs, curve balls, inside, outside, high, and low to try and get the hitter to swing and miss or make weak contact that really gets my blood flowing! Another aspect I love about what I do is that even though it starts out as a 1 on 1 it’s not technically that.  The catcher has a massive influence on pitching and then after I deliver the pitch, I have my teammates behind me to try and make a defensive play to get the hitter out. 

My Path to Major League Pitching

I started playing baseball when I was 7 and if I remember correctly my first year of pitching was when I was 9.  That means to my surprise I have been pitching for 25 years.  That really blows my mind when I step back and look at it that way.  I played travel ball when I became a teenager and had the joy of playing on some really excellent teams with some really amazing players, some of whom went on to play in college and professionally as well.  High school baseball was a blast and I played 4 years at the varsity level.  The college recruitment process was interesting as we did not have a lot of information or knowledge on how college athletics worked.  I will dive into that in a later article.  I ended up going the JUCO route and playing for Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama where I played for 2 years before being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 10th round of the 2008 MLB amateur draft. Before I signed with the Braves I was honored to play in the Cape Cod League which is the premiere college wood bat league in the US.  I played on the Harwich Mariners and we won the league Championship.  I signed at the end of that summer on the very last day of being eligible to sign.  That is also a deeper story for another time. 

My professional career has led me to play on some great teams in some awesome organizations. I have played for the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, and Washington Nationals in the MLB.  I have also played for the Canberra Cavalry in Australia and most recently the Lexington Legends of the Atlantic League. 

Why Faith Based Coaching is my Passion

I have always wanted to be able to pass on my experiences, knowledge and passion for the game to the next generation.  This will also allow me to hopefully provide coaching and training that I did not have access to when I was a youth athlete.  Learning how to train to maximize the potential in yourself is a key component to being successful in any area of life.  The life of an athlete is more than just the time spent on the field competing. There are countless hours of preparation and dedication.  My goal through Narrow Path Sports is to walk alongside each athlete as they traverse down that path.  My faith has always been my guiding light and I hope to maximize what God has blessed me with both on the playing field and in the arena of coaching.  I am excited to be on this journey and I hope you will come with me.  If you are looking for advice or coaching, please feel free to connect with me via social, email, or phone.  I will do my best to help in any way that I can.  Stay tuned for the next article in this introduction series to get a better feel for what Narrow Path Sports will provide.  Until then remember to  #FollowtheNarrowPath