Rhinelander’s Martin Hoger, center, poses with family and coaches as he signs a Letter of Intent to play college baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Superior during a press conference at Rhinelander High School Friday, May 31. Joining Hoger in the front row are his parents, Dean and Kecia. In the back row Rhinelander Post 7 American Legion manager Dan Huhnstock and RHS baseball head coach Joe Waksmonski. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
In this May 23, 2019 file photo, Martin Hoger throws a ball in from center field during a WIAA Division 2 playoff baseball game against Mosinee at City Park in Mosinee. Hoger played outfield and pitcher primarily for the Hodags this spring, though he said he could be used in a number of positions at UW-Superior. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
6/8/2019 7:33:00 AM Hoger moving on to play baseball at UW-Superior
Typically, for athletes looking to play sports at the college level, the opportunity to join the team comes before committing to a school. Things worked a little differently for Martin Hoger, however.
The recently-graduated Rhinelander High School senior already knew he was going to continue his college education at UW-Superior. The opportunity to play his favorite sport came after the fact.
Last Friday, Hoger signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the Yellowjackets, nearly three months after he had already been accepted to the NCAA Division III university.
"It's kind of surreal," Hoger told the River News this week in a sit-down interview. "As a kid, you always kind of dream about playing at the next level and being a little bit more than a high school athlete.
"As fun as high school sports are, there's nothing like playing college sports. It's almost like a dream come true. Now that it's actually happening, it's hard to put it into words."
Hoger said his path to college baseball started similarly to fellow RHS senior Josh Randolph, who announced prior to the season his intention to play for Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon. Hoger said attended a showcase camp last summer where he caught the attention of UW-Superior coach Frank Pufall. From there came an invitation to a tryout camp last October.
"We went up there and did more of the same thing, which was basically practicing with the team and doing live hitting on the field, running 60 (yard sprints), throwing off the mound and throwing from the outfield," Hoger said. "After that tryout, and after a couple of references, he thought it was good enough to offer me a roster spot. He said there would be a roster spot available for me in the fall, which was really exciting."
Hoger had the second best batting average for Rhinelander this spring, hitting .321 with seven RBIs. He drew a team-best 19 walks and had an even .500 on base percentage. On the mound, Hoger went 1-2 with a 5.04 ERA. He had 17 strikeouts and 19 walks over 25 innings pitched. Defensively, Hoger had a .922 fielding percentage.
"Martin is not afraid to work. When he wants something and puts his mind to it, he can definitely accomplish something," Hodag coach Joe Waksmonski said during last Friday's signing.
Added Dan Huhnstock, who coached Hoger both at the JV and American Legion levels, "I'm extremely proud of Martin. He's been an exemplary example of what Rhinelander baseball can do. He's worked hard, showed up for open gyms. I know last spring he was so happy when he could get on the field for Legion. It showed during the season. He really played well."
Hoger will join a UW-Superior squad that went 18-22 overall this spring, including 9-7 in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. The Yellowjackets reached the championship game of the UMAC tournament before falling to Bethany Lutheran.
"It's awesome to know that you're playing for a team that's really competitive, but that you still might get some really good playing time," Hoger said.
Though he was primarily an outfielder and pitcher for the Hodags, Hoger said he could be used in a number of positions at Superior.
"Anywhere he's willing to put me, just as long as I get on the other side of the lines," he said.
One thing is for sure, according to Waksmonski, no one will work harder for a roster spot and playing time than Hoger.
"For baseball, he was one of the few, even if he was in the middle of another sport, he still kept working on baseball," he said. "He was still trying to improve himself as a player. Not a lot of guys - even guys we've had go on to play college baseball - not everyone has been doing that."
Hoger joins a long list of Hodag players who committed to play baseball after high school - including Bradley Comer (UW-Stevens Point), Jacob DeMeyer (UW-Whitewater) and Randolph - over the last two seasons.
"I think it's really exciting to know that I'm with a select group of players in Rhinelander who were also really good," Hoger said. "It's really awesome to know that I can be up there with them."
Hoger said he plans to major in education at UW-Superior, with an emphasis in either history or foreign language with hopes of someday becoming a high school teacher. That may also include a spot in coaching, should the opportunity present itself.
"I'd love to coach some day, and help kids do what I always wanted to do as a kid," he said.
During Friday's signing, Hoger thanked his parents - Dean and Kecia - along with the coaches he has had during his career as a three-sport athlete at RHS.
"No matter whether its baseball or swimming or soccer, whatever I did, all those coaches helped me big time in becoming a better athlete," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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