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Your Random D-Back: John Hester

The 101st player to homer in his first major league at bat.

Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

From Catholic schoolboy to a Snake.

If it wasn’t for Kyle Farmer, the Twins projected shortstop for 2023 until they signed Carlos Correa, today’s Random D-Back John Hester would be the most famous baseball player ever who attended Marist School in Atlanta, a private catholic high school. A two-way player, Hester was also a pretty good linebacker, he dominated Georgia high school baseball. In his final 2002 year at Marist he hit .400 with 8 homers and 50 RBI and was selected to the All-State baseball team.

“I started catching when I was nine years old. I used to play first base, but one day the catcher of my team did not show up. I was thrown behind the plate, and it stuck. To this day, I like how a catcher is involved in nearly every play of the game, and I like having more responsibilities, such as calling a game or handling a pitching staff. It may be the most work on the field, but I love squatting behind the plate and getting dirty.” - John Hester about his love for catching on, in 2010

Hester was offered a scholarship at Stanford University and he decided to accept it because he thought it to be the best combination of superior athletics and academics. He had a few quiet seasons in Palo Alto in his freshman and sophomere year, being a back-up to Donny Lucy, who was in the Chicago White Sox system during his career, reaching the major leagues in 3 seasons.

In his junior year he seizes control of the spot behind the plate, on a team with future successful major leaguers like Jed Lowrie, Jason Castro and 2006 top draft pick Greg Reynolds, a former Rockie. Hester contributes nicely in every column on the offensive side, even leading his team in HBP. But beside the .282/.358/.414 batting line he also impresses on the defensive side, with a .991 fielding percentage and just 4 errors, while nabbing 28.6% of baserunners. Hester is selected in the 2005 amateur draft by the Red Sox in the 33rd round, but Hester decides to forego on the offered opportunity.

The 2006 season is definitely not as impressive as 2005 and Hester takes a step back hitting a non-stellar .264/.332/.358, but improves in the strikeout stat. Baseball America has him ranked as the nation’s number 4 college back-stop going into the 2006 season, with good handling of pitching staff and a quick arm, but a less impressive season provokes a sharp drop in the front office likings and among the catchers that are picked in the 2006 draft he is number 24: quite disappointing.

Hester doesn’t get picked by the team he dreams of, he is a childhood Atlanta Braves fan, but the Diamondbacks offer him the opportunity to go pro by picking him in the 13th round and send him to Missoula. There, in the rookie leagues, he outplays his opponents with a .860 OPS and a .997 fielding percentage.

The road to a homerun.

On the 2007 Visalia Oaks he shares catching duties with Puerto Rican Orlando Mercado and although his defence isn’t that great he is outstanding in catching 35% of runners trying to steal a base. 2008 sees Hester getting his first at bats in Spring Training with the major league team and after a fine season in Mobile he is promoted a bit further to Reno in 2009. In Spring Training he hits a hot .412/.500/.471 in 17 at bats and starts most games behind the plate in AAA, getting the nod over Luke Carlin. By the end of August back-up catcher Chris Snyder hits the IL and Hester is the most logical player to get the call-up although he isn’t added to the roster until the Diamondbacks deal reliever Jon Rauch to the Twins some moments later.

His debut on August 29 is one for the books.

“That’s a start that I can only wish for, and it came true,” Hester said. “After that, I don’t know what I’m going to do to follow up.”
Pinch-hitting in the sixth, the 25-year-old Hester hit a 2-2 delivery from Lopez, also making his first appearance in the majors, an estimated 420 feet off the batter’s eye in center field.
The ball caromed back onto the field and wound up in Hester’s locker.
When Hester got back to the dugout, he was mobbed by teammates who shoved him up the steps to answer a curtain call from the Chase Field crowd of 26,190. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is really happening,’ so I got up and gave them a curtain call,” Hester said. - Storytelling from in the recap of the August 29, 2009, game of the Diamondbacks against the Astros where Hester made his debut

Hester becomes the 101st player to launch a homerun in his first major league at-bat (Gerardo Parra achieved the same earlier that season).

Hester has a nice final month of 2006, ending his first batting line in the major leagues with a hopeful .250/.300/.429. With the defensive prowess some voices make a case for him to become the 2010 back-up catcher.

“Not many teams have an asset like John Hester - a major-league ready, legitimate backup catcher with one September on his service clock making minimum dollars for the foreseeable future. The guy was a AAA-All Star in 2009, due to his bat, and that is after having a career reputation as a defensive-oriented catcher. The guy has literally nothing left to prove by being in AAA. With Snyder having some health concerns, Hester would have to start his fair share of games.” - Fanpost on the AZSnakePit by Dan Strittmatter in 2010 on discussing a possible Miguel Montero trade

But Montero isn’t going anywhere, nor does Chris Snyder and so Hester is assigned to Reno again at the start of the 2010 season. He rakes in Reno, but doesn’t in Phoenix with a .640 OPS and striking out in almost a third of his plate appearances, nor does he impress defensively, allowing 4 balls to pass and getting just 13% of the baserunners in 33 games.

Always baseball.

Kevin Towers deems John Hester as expendable. At the beginning of the 2011 season Hester is outrighted to Reno and just a few months later becomes part of the Mark Reynolds trade as a PTBNL. Hester joins the Orioles and is assigned to Norfolk. He spends the entire season in AAA before being released in April 2012 and latching on with the Angels. He spends the majority of the 2012 season as a back-up catcher in the major leagues, but in 2013 he is stuck in AAA and returns for a final time in the majors to make a single pinch hit appearance. In 2014 he is once again with the Angels, but the entire season in Salt Lake. By the end of the season he is released and signs a new minor league deal with the Phillies in 2015, but he completes just 28 at bats and is released in June.

He immediately calls it quits and joins the Seattle Mariners as a baseball scout. During that time, and with a bachelor in Economics from Stanford in his back, he decides to study to get his licence as an investment advisor. Once he gets that he says goodbye to the scouting job for the Mariners and works for a year as a financial advisor out of Scottsdale, where his home is, until he joins an Atlanta wealth firm as a wealth management investment advisor to serve draft-eligible, current, and retired professional baseball players and their families, a job he still has today.


John Hester...remember him?

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