Freshman Hochanadel Making His Presence Felt
Harvard baseball coach Liegh Hogan went to Ohio two years ago looking for some pitchers.
Instead, Hogan found Mike Hochanadel, then a hard-hitting junior at Columbus Academy. Although Hogan could not talk to Hochanadel because of NCAA regulations, the coach liked what he saw.
Fast forward to the 1994 sports season. Hochanadel, now a freshman at Harvard, has played in 16 of Harvard's 17 games this season, including all eight Ivy League contests. His three home runs and 88 put-outs lead the team. He is second on the squad in both batting average (.346) and slugging percentage (.577), and is third in RBIs (16).
Hochanadel (pronounced HO-can-ah-del) is a product of Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus, OH.
A four-year varsity starting shortstop is high school, Hochanadel now fills even bigger shoes as Harvard's starting first baseman and number-eight hitter.
He has had little problem adjusting to college ball.
"Mike hasn't looked like a freshman or acted like a freshman," senior captain Mike Giardi said. "He's acted like a baseball player. He had a role to fill and he has stepped up to fill it. He's hit the ball very well and done a great job in the field."
Hochanadel is an aggressive hitter cut from the Ted Williams mold. Driving off his back foot and getting power from his hips, Hochanadel smacks bullet-like line drives to all fields.
Those line drives have cleared the fences three times and fallen in for three doubles and twelve singles.
"Teams are starting to have to worry about him a lot," Giardi said. "He has a lot of power and he makes really good contact. He has not shown opposing teams any weaknesses."
Hochanadel is perhaps strongest in the clutch, a situation which he loves.
"He has had several clutch hits," Giardi said.
"I love hitting in the clutch," Hochanadel said. "I was really upset the other day because I choked with the bases loaded. I look forward to the opportunity of getting up with people on base. I was much better hitter with people on base in high school."
Hochanadel twice won the Central District RBI crown during his high school years.
Although his hitting is what got him into the everyday line-up-in particular a home run in his first collegiate at-bat against Northern Iowa-Hochanadel is no slouch in the field.
He considers his natural position shortstop, though he saw early season action at third base and leftfield for the Crimson. Hochanadel settled in at first base before the eighth game of the season and has been there ever since.
"Moving to first base was not a big adjustment fielding-wise," Hochanaldel said. "I had to worry most about things that shortstops don't do, like my footwark around the bag, making the stretch and getting balls in the dirt."
"Mike is an athlete," Giardi said. "He can play third base. He can play outfield. He can play first base. With experience, he could probably play shortstop, too. He is easing into his position at first base. Give him two years and he will a really good defensive first baseman."
Even with almost three quarters of the season left, the honors are already starting to roll in. Last week, Hochanadel was named to the Ivy Honor Roll. In some circles, Hochanadel's name is being tossed around as a potential Ivy League Baseball Rookie of the Year.
Still, Hochanadel remains humble. After all, he is only a freshman.
"I recognize that I have to keep improving," Hochanadel emphasized. "You cannot stay at the status quo because you just get left behind. Everyone is always getting better. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."