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micah hoffpauir nippon ham fightersIf you recall, I’m on a mission. Not necessarily from God, but it’s close.

“Hey you remember [insert name]? What the hell ever happened to him?” I honestly ask this question so much when it comes to athletes. So I decided to do some research.

Where the hell are some of our Cubs from years past? Last time we found out that Matty Murton was killing it in Japan. This time around it’s time to discuss my favorite Texan, Micah Hoffpauir. But I have a special treat in store…

Because of my “day job” as a corporate recruiter, I’ve been able to amass a set of particular skills in finding people on the internet (much like Liam Neesen in Taken 2: Even More Taken-er). I was able to track down Micah. He not only responded to a message from me, but also was extremely gracious in agreeing to answer a bunch of my questions.

Micah was actually first drafted in the 44th round of the 2000 amateur draft by the then Tampa Bay DEVIL Rays. He ended up not signing and went back to school for another two years before being drafted again by the Cubs in the 13th round of the 2002 amateur draft.

Hoffpauir struggled in the minors during his first couple years with the Cubs. In 2006 he moved from the Double-A West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx up to Triple-A Iowa where he seemingly started to put it altogether. He unfortunately didn’t get a shot at the bigs until 2008, where he was pretty successful during his 33 games. He held a slash line of .342/.400/.534 that year but couldn’t hold down a roster spot. He saw more playing time in 2009, particularly in the outfield, and also filled in for Derek Lee more regularly, playing in 105 games. 2010 was Hoffpauir’s last year in Chicago, where he only played in 24 games and was, eventually, allowed to have his contract bought out by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. He played in Japan from 2011-2013.

And now, in his own words…

Myles: When you were drafted by the Rays the first time, what were some of the reasons you ended up not signing with them?

Micah: The main reason that I did not sign with the Rays was that I wasn’t drafted until the 44th round and just felt like I would not really get a good shot being drafted that late.  I also had a full scholarship to finish my baseball at Lamar, and I felt that would also give me the chance to better my draft position.

Myles: What was it like walking into Wrigley for the first time? 

Micah: The first time I walked in Wrigley I was on cloud nine.  Not only because I was in the big leagues, but also because I was getting to play where so many legends had played.  That was awesome.  The one thing I thought was really cool was the smell.  It was that old kind of musty smell.  I loved it!  What an awesome place to play baseball.

Myles: After the 2010 season, did you have any interest from other MLB ball clubs? If so, what precluded you from signing and instead going to Japan?

Micah: The deal with going to Japan was only if the Cubs let me be bought out of my contract.  If I had stayed in the states I would have been fighting for a job on the roster again.  I felt like it would be better for me to take a shot at playing in Japan.  I was under contract through that 2010 season

Myles: What were some of the key differences between US ball and Japanese ball?

Micah: There are quite a few differences, but the one that really stands out is that small ball is so much bigger over there than in the states.  I do not know many, if any, teams in the states that would bunt in the top of the first inning with no one out.  They do almost every time in Japan.  The way they do rosters is different.  You can have 28 players in the big leagues and only 25 or 26 can be active.  You can move them from one to the other everyday with out actually sending them down.  So most starting pitchers are on the actual active roster one day a week.  This way the team can carry an extra bat on the bench.

[One thing I forgot to ask about here was how dominant Yu Darvish was. Micah actually was on the roster with him at the same time while in Japan. Small world.] 

Myles: Did you officially retire? Any chance you try for a comeback?

Micah: I have officially retired.  I played baseball because I loved playing it, and when it became more of a job to me the decision was easy.  I have been given a chance to play the game I love at the highest level and I am truly thankful for that.

Myles: Do you keep in touch with anybody from the Cubs staff during your time here?

Micah: I do not keep in touch too much with the staff, but a few of the players I played with I still talk to and hunt with from time to time.  Mike Fontenot, Andrew Cashner, and myself have done a little hunting in the years since I left.  I am also still in touch with Bobby Scales.  We actually played together in Japan for about half of my first year over there.

Myles: What type of work are you doing with Grace Hospice? Any interest at pursuing a career in baseball (as a coach or in some other capacity)?

Micah: I am doing a marketing job for Grace Hospice.  It is just me going in to nursing homes and assisted living places and visiting with administrators and nurses.  As far as staying [in] baseball, I would love to do something in baseball one day, but not until after my kids are a little older.  We are just enjoying being around for them.

Myles: What are your thoughts on Jim Hendry and Sweet Lou? 

Micah: Playing for Lou was fun.  The one thing I did like about Lou was that you knew where you stood.  He did not hold any punches.  I think the fact that he was honest with the players was one of the reasons they played hard for him.   Jim was a nice guy that knew baseball.  He could look at a player and say this guy is going to compute at the big league level, and he usually didn’t miss.  He also is the person that called me to the big leagues.

Myles: Craziest story you feel comfortable sharing during your time in Chicago?

Micah: I think one of the funniest things I was apart of was when they made all the rookies dress up in the costumes and fly from Chicago to St. Louis.  In order for us to get our real dress clothes back we had to go to the middle of a casino in our hotel and find the veterans.  The only problem with this was that the security did not think it was funny that all these people were dressed up.  He wanted our id’s and I can assure you that most of our outfits had no pockets.  After they finally let us in, we all walked through the casino and found the guys.  They took some pictures and told us that our clothes would be delivered to our rooms, and they were.  Pretty good times!  Myself and my family really did love playing in Chicago even if it was for a short time.  We will be back in the future so I can let my kids see Wrigley and the city of Chicago.

Takeaways? Wrigley is awesome for anyone. Japanese play ball a bit differently. Lou is exactly how we think he would be as a manager. Giving rookies a hard time will never get old.

But in all seriousness, Micah is one great dude. He was extremely gracious with his time and I thank him for that.

“Where is he now” status: Being an awesome dad in East Texas.

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