O'Hoppe's energy, leadership flourish in camp

February 16th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There’s something about the way catcher carries himself and treats others that makes him stand out as a natural leader.

O’Hoppe is just 24 and only has 56 Major League games under his belt over parts of the past two seasons, but players already gravitate toward him and he’s constantly working with the pitchers and dispensing his advice.

The backstop is clearly eager and full of energy, so much so that manager Ron Washington joked that O'Hoppe sometimes needs to let some air out and just relax, especially early in Spring Training.

“He’s a class act,” Washington said. “I think I had to take a pin yesterday and push it in him to let some of the air out. That's just how eager he is, the type of person that he is. But I just wanted to make him understand we are in the process for Opening Day. Our process is not for anything going on in Spring Training.”

O’Hoppe laughed when told of Washington’s comments, but he quickly switched gears to note that his attitude stems from a desire to help turn around the franchise after another frustrating season in 2023.

“I don't know what it means but I love it,” O’Hoppe said. “I definitely still have that bad taste in my mouth from last year and none of us forgot what that was like. And we all talked a lot over the offseason to put a plan in place and change it going forward. Even on Day 1, I felt like we've been doing it for weeks. Just keeping in touch with one another and talking about the right things. So it's on the right track.”

O’Hoppe, who has been working out at the club’s Spring Training facility for the past three weeks, said there’s a different vibe at camp this year. He noted that many players arrived much earlier than the official report date and that there’s a collective mindset to try to change the narrative about the Angels, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2014.

“I love it,” O’Hoppe said. “It’s a completely different feel than it was last year. And it's not like, rah rah to the wall either. Like it's controlled, and there's a plan in place. So I'm excited to be a part of it.”

O’Hoppe is part of the club’s emerging young core that also includes shortstop Zach Neto and first baseman Nolan Schanuel , among others. He said the younger players constantly talk about turning things around, while leaning on veterans such as Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Carlos Estévez for advice.

“It's fun,” O’Hoppe said. “It's something that I don't take lightly and I know these guys don't take lightly either and it's a big responsibility we have. And obviously we got the veteran guys like Tony, Mike and Este and many more to lead the way together.”

O'Hoppe is coming off a season that saw him hit .236/.296/.500 with 14 homers, six doubles and 29 RBIs in 51 games. But he missed four months after tearing his labrum in his left shoulder on a swing on April 20. O’Hoppe, though, returned in late August and hit nine homers in 26 games in September.

“Just trying to continue to do what I was doing last year,” O’Hoppe said. “Just feel out the game a little more and assess where I'm at and what the game is asking me to do. And I feel like I got a better understanding of what I'm capable of doing at the plate last year. This offseason I just worked on things that I felt like I needed to improve on this year.”