Five fun facts about Matt Hobgood
Orioles first-round draft pick Matt Hobgood, 18, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Norco High in suburban Los Angeles, signed his contract and was introduced at a news conference tonight at Camden Yards. Hobgood, the fifth overall pick in the draft, received a signing bonus of $2.42 million and will report to Rookie-level Bluefield tomorrow. Here are some things you ought to know about him:
• Hobgood hates to lose. At anything.
"I get competitive playing a game of Monopoly," he said. "When my (younger) sisters and I play this auto racing game on PlayStation 2, I let them get ahead and then I crush ‘em.
"I like to mess with people, let them think they’re beating me and then go after them. Sometimes in baseball I’ll get a little wild, walk a couple of guys and then tell myself, ‘You’ve got to get it done.’ Then I’ll strike out three people."
• Hobgood likes to eat. Almost anything.
"I’ve seen him take fourth and fifth servings at a buffet," said D.J. Wood, his best friend from high school. "Matt is a big dude and he can freakin’ eat.
"Once, while hanging out at my house, he said, ‘Dude, I’m hungry.’ So he opened a family-sized box of Fruity Pebbles and had a bowl. Then we went upstairs to watch TV.
"A while later, Matt went back downstairs to get a glass of water. When he didn’t come back, I went down to find the cereal box in the trash and the gallon of milk almost empty. He’d scarfed down the whole thing in five minutes."
• His nickname is "Arizona" because (1.) Hobgood was born there and (2.) friends say that at 6 feet 4 and 250 pounds, he seems about the size of The Grand Canyon State.
• At Norco High, where pigskins rule, Hobgood took heat for walking away from football in 10th grade to concentrate on baseball. Here, in Friday Night Lights country, was this moose of a prospect who once stood on the 50-yard line and threw a spiral through the goal posts. So how could he choose not to play?
"We told Matt’s family that he was almost guaranteed a college football scholarship," said Todd Gerhart, Norco’s football coach. Hobgood declined.
"I liked football, but I love baseball," Hobgood said. "I took a lot of crap from the football players for that. But I guess it worked out OK."
The day after the Orioles drafted him, Hobgood said, "the football team was all asking for autographs."
• As a high school freshman, Hobgood didn’t get much playing time. But that didn’t stop him from trying to get into the game.
Once, in a tight contest, an opposing batter lifted a pop fly that drifted toward the Norco dugout.
"Our third baseman was set to catch the ball," Norco coach Gary Parcell said. "All of a sudden this glove comes out of the dugout and takes it away. There was Matt, with a big smile on his face, proudly yelling, ‘I caught it, coach!’
"I could have killed him."
Norco won the game but his teammates teased Hobgood no end.
"Even this year, every time a pop-up came toward the dugout, they grabbed me to make sure I’d be nowhere near it," he said. "They’ll never let me live that down."