Hoiles won't pull up roots despite baseball cash crop

INSIDE THE ORIOLES

May 18, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

For some reason, many of the same people who have no problem with Madonna's earning $60 million in one year for personifying an image not quite in line with that you would hope your daughter projects get bent way out of shape when major-league baseball players are paid in the millions.

The thinking is that only Ivy League graduates, CEOs and movie stars are entitled to the riches. Never mind that the free market dictates player salaries, baseball is a game, the thinking goes, and games should be played only for fun.

For those who can't stop feeling bitter about ballplayers striking it rich, ask yourself one question and see if that doesn't work.

What other profession has so many blue-collar, down-to-earth millionaires?

Precisely, zero.

Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles is a throwback to a time when many major-league baseball players had rural roots.

Hoiles' idea of a fun time in the off-season is hunting white-tailed deer. He has become adept at shooting them with rifles and with a bow and arrow.

Moreover, he likes to farm. Farmer Chris, a bachelor, lives on his father's steer farm in Wayne, Ohio, in the winter.

His farming roots go back to when his summers consisted of playing and baseball and working one of the area sheep farms with other youths.

"They called us the shepherds," Hoiles said. "We herded the sheep and did a little bit of everything. We mowed the grass, cleaned the ponds, took care of the sheep. When they were lambing, we had to be there for any problems. We plowed all the fields, baled hay. We lived in a barn apartment right above where the sheep stayed."

Hoiles rises at 7 a.m. during the winters and often helps his father with various chores.

"I've never had to do it full time, but from what I've done so far, I've loved it," Hoiles said. "My dad owns steers. We're constantly going to get hay and straw for them, carrying 50-to-75-pound bags of it."

One of the game's top offensive catchers, Hoiles has worked himself into an above-average defensive catcher who stands to cash in with a huge contract in the near future, but that doesn't keep him from doing strenuous work on the farm.

"If you worry about that all the time, if you go through life all the time worrying about getting hurt, that's when you are going to get hurt," said Hoiles, the Orioles' starting catcher in all but two games this season. "My dad's over 50 now, so it's better for me to do that than for him."

Hoiles had a workout barn with an apartment built on the farm. It has weight machines, batting cages and basketball, volleyball and floor hockey courts.

Bonus item

Closer Lee Smith signed for a $1.5 million base salary, but if he maintains his pace throughout the season, incentives would bring that up to $2.675 million.

Smith would get a $500,000 bonus for winning the Rolaids Relief Man Award, $325,000 for 60 appearances, $325,000 for 60 games finished and $25,000 for making the All-Star team, bringing the total package to $2.675 million. Other possible bonuses include $50,000 for League Championship Series Most Valuable Player and $50,000 World Series MVP. At the pace he took into last night's game, Smith would save more than 70 games and would be grossly underpaid at $2.675 million.

One of Smith's many explanations for why he did not command a higher salary last off-season: "I don't know. Maybe they thought I was going to have a stroke."

Smith jokes often about the contract for which he had to settle last winter, but it must bother him, considering he repeatedly has watched his setup men with injury histories (Todd Worrell and Ken Dayley come to mind) leave him behind for more lucrative contracts.

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