It’s certainly not unheard of for former athletes to end up running for office in the state of California.
But Angels catching prospect Hank Conger has a head start on his predecessors:
He’s already got a campaign video up on You Tube.
But before anyone gets up in arms about athletes speaking out on political issues, this particular video is obviously a joke, not a political statement.
As an assignment for a class in government during his senior year in high school in Huntington Beach, Conger’s class held a mock election where he was chosen as one of the candidates.
He selected a few classmates as his advisors and part of their campaign strategy was to create an election video that shows a side of Conger that most fans in the stands may not see, but his friends and teammates definitely do.
“It would surprise people to know that I’m a big goofball once you get to know me,” he admitted, “because I’m pretty shy at first.”
Conger was more than willing to go along with the offbeat assignment since the winner of the class election was guaranteed extra credit. And yes, he won the election and got that coveted A in the class.
“It really was fun to make,” he said. “At first it was a little embarrassing when it leaked out but I figured, ‘whatever.'”
Now, almost three years later, Conger has gotten a vote of confidence from the Angels as well, who made him their first-round pick in 2006.
Though he’s been struggling to overcome a series of injuries that kept him from catching more than 10 games last summer and sidelined him for half the summer, when he has had the bat in his hand he’s been deadly.
While no one may be able to live up to the inspiration for his nickname, given by his grandfather in honor of Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, Conger (whose given name is Hyun Choi) has been more than impressive.
The 21-year-old catching prospect got into four games, all as a pinch-hitter or DH, going 2-for-6 with three RBIs, before being dispatched to the organization’s Minor League complex on March 9.
But that wasn’t a hasty demotion. It was just time for the young catcher to get to work for what they hope will be a healthy and happy 2009 season.
Conger didn’t let those setbacks set him back at the plate, though. The switch-hitter batted .303 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs in just 73 games, quite a pace, at Advanced A Rancho Cucamonga. And when the Quakes’ season ended, he was moved up to Double-A Arkansas to join the Travelers in their successful quest for the Texas League championship, driving in another 13 runs in just eight games for his new team.
Now it’s time to add the defense back to the package. Conger has been working hard on getting healthy during this off-season and is now at the point where he is long-tossing and almost ready to catch again.
“I’ve just been working out, going back and forth to our Arizona complex to work with the trainers there on my throwing program,” said Conger. “I feel good and my arm is good so I should be ready to go.”
Conger has hit a combined .298 in three pro seasons, batting .319 in his Arizona League debut in ’06 and .290 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 84 games at Class A Cedar Rapids in ’07.
MLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, in your life are you the proudest?
Hank Conger: Up till now, probably winning the Texas League championship. All my life it’s always been about going to big tournaments and falling short, winning second place. I didn’t get to play with them during the regular season but coming in with that team working together as a whole was awesome.
MLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
HC: I was just talking to my dad about that and to be honest I have no clue. Growing up, I just wanted to be a baseball player so I never had a fallback plan. I don’t know if that’s bad or not.
MLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
HC: I love golfing and hanging out with my friends, hanging out with my family. When I was younger, before I signed, I took hanging out with my family and friends for granted but it’s harder now.
MLB: What is your guiltiest TV pleasure?
HC: The dramas on TV now that are so ridiculous but I still watch them like “The Hills” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
MLB: What reality TV show would you kick butt on?
HC: “Tool Academy.” I saw a couple of episodes and thought it was a joke.
MLB: Who was your childhood crush?
Carrie Underwood and Michelle Wii, right now.
MLB: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
HC: Jackie Chan. (laughed)
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors do you find to be the biggest challenge and why?
HC: Handling the downside of everything, whether it’s a slump or an injury.
MLB: Which aspect of life in the minors has surprised you the most, in comparison to what you might have imagined before you turned pro?
HC: It’s more business and company-organization oriented.
MLB: If you were commissioner for a day, which one rule would you change?
HC: The All-Star Game rule, with the winner getting home field advantage.