HOUSTON -- Just to make sure nobody would confuse Larsen Jerome O'Bryan Hoes with his father of the same name, he was stuck with the nickname "Little Jerome" early in his life. Little Jerome is known better these days as L.J. Hoes, though many Astros fans may not know much about him at all.
If things go as well as the Astros hope, the name L.J. Hoes will soon be rolling off tongues and adorning the backs of jerseys of fans at Minute Maid Park for years to come. Hoes was a key piece in last week's trade with the Orioles that sent veteran pitcher Bud Norris packing for a pennant race and added to the Astros' wealth of young talent.
The 23-year-old, who had never stepped foot in Texas prior to Monday, when the Astros open a series against the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park, is now part of Houston's talented outfield mix that includes Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes, Marc Krauss and Chris Carter.
"It's a very good spot," Hoes said. "There's a lot of great opportunity here, and most of the guys I already know. It's a good group of guys and a good nucleus of guys. We're all young, and we're trying to make it through and bring some winning ways to Houston. We have a good shot with the talent we have in here. The future looks bright."
The likeable Hoes was ranked by MLB.com as the Orioles' No. 7 prospect when he was traded to Houston along with Minor League left-handed pitcher Josh Hader and a Competitive Balance Draft pick. Hoes was hitting .304 with 25 doubles, 40 RBIs and a .406 on-base percentage at Triple-A Norfolk when the O's called him up just three days prior the trade.
The trade came as a shock to Hoes, who grew up in Bowie, Md., as a staunch Orioles fans. His childhood days were filled with attending games in Baltimore and cheering on Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson, B.J. Surhoff, Mike Devereaux, Albert Belle and Roberto Alomar.
"I pretty much went to all the games I could make when I wasn't playing," Hoes said.
Orioles All-Star outfielder Adam Jones took Hoes under his wing in Baltimore and was always quick to give him advice and feedback. The pair said their goodbyes as teammates last week in a moment Jones called bittersweet.
"I'm gonna miss him like a little brother," Jones said. "Now, he's going to get an opportunity to go over there and play -- that's all you want. It's baseball, we've got the same offseason, so if we want to be that kind of buddies, we can go hang out in the offseason. But he's going to get a chance to play, and it's a similar situation to mine [getting traded from Seattle]. He's going to get an opportunity to play, and that's good."
Hoes was a two-sport star at St. John's College High School outside Washington, D.C., and turned down a college scholarship to the University of North Carolina when the O's drafted him in the third round in 2008. He came from an athletic family -- his father played football at Fairmont State in West Virginia, and his 19-year-old sister plays softball at North Carolina Wesleyan.
Education, though, has always been the family's focus. Hoes' mother, Gale, works in administration for the U.S. Department of Education and still has hopes her son can one day go to college and get a degree.
"My mom and dad always stressed education," Hoes said. "If I didn't get a 3.2 [grade-point average], 3.3, there was no sports. I had to be on the honor roll, be on the principal's list. My parents wanted me to go [to college], and even to this day my mom still stresses for me to go back."
Hoes followed in his dad's footsteps and become a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, though he grew to love the nearby Baltimore Ravens as well. He even became friends with Ravens wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Torrey Smith through his best friend, Kenny Tate, who played with them at the University of Maryland.
"We used to hang out and play video games together and eat food and watch movies," Hoes said. "Mostly video games and stuff like that. We've developed a good friendship, and those guys are doing really well with the Ravens and they just won the Super Bowl, so I'm happy for those guys."
As far as his NFL allegiances are concerned, Hoes admits being a Cowboys fan in Houston will be tough. That's why he knows he'll have to start pulling for the Texans, and Astros pitcher Jarred Cosart -- Hoes' Arizona Fall League roommate and a huge Texans fans -- is already trying to win his support.
"I'm going to have to get an Andre Johnson jersey and go to some of the games," Hoes said. "I heard it's a beautiful stadium down there. And I'm sure I'll become a Texans fan this year."
One thing Hoes loves to do as much as play sports is eat, and he's not shy to admit it. Grossman, a Houston-area native who played with Hoes in 2007, has sold him on the wonders of a downtown seafood restaurant in Houston.
"There's good food down there, and we're down south and I'll be exposed to some good food," Hoes said. "I'm pretty excited."
For now, Hoes' focus will be on baseball and trying to make a good impression with a young Astros team that is filled with opportunity.
"I'm just blessed and fortunate to play this game," Hoes said. "There's a lot of people who wish they had this opportunity, and I want to go out here and give it my all, because you never know. It could all be taken away from you. I try to go out there and play hard every day and put on a good show for the fans."