WICHITA, KS- The Wichita Wingnuts, proud member of the American Association of Professional Baseball (AA), announced the signing today of former Wichita State University Star (WSU) and former Major League infielder Kevin Hooper.
A 10th-year pro out of Lawrence, Kansas, Hooper joins the Wingnuts after spending the last three seasons in the Detroit Tigers organization. Last season, as a member of the AAA Toledo Mud Hens, Hooper hit an impressive .301, with 11 stolen bases. A solid contact hitter, Hooper had an on-base percentage of .348 and struck out just 25 times in 246 at-bats.
Prior to turning pro, Hooper played four seasons at WSU, where he was a two-time All-American and finished with a career batting average of .358. Hooper ranks in the top 10 in Shockers history for runs scored (5th, 287), hits (7th, 315), doubles (7th, 58) and triples (9th, 17). He also had the third highest single-season fielding percentage for a Shockers second baseman, at .978. in 1998.
“Kevin’s achievements and popularity in being one of the most successful Wichita State Shockers is a dynamic that fits perfectly with our idea of making this team truly ‘Wichita's Team’", said Wingnuts manager Kash Beauchamp. “Whether on the field stealing bases, making great play and getting clutch hits; or in the community lending his talent and experience to civic organizations within Wichita, Kevin is the type of player and person that will help make this season a successful venture."
Hooper was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 49th round of the 1998 draft (1421st overall) but remained at WSU for his senior season in 1999, when he recorded career-highs for stolen bases (24), hits (86) and batting average (.402). He was then drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 8th round of the 1999 draft (236th overall).
Hooper, who was introduced to the media at a press conference at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, began his pro career in 1999 with Utica of the Single-A New York-Penn League, hitting .280 in 73 games. Following five more seasons in the Marlins’ organization, Hooper was signed by the New York Yankees on May 26th, 2004. Later that season he was released and claimed by the Kansas City Royals, finishing the season with the AAA Omaha Royals.
Following the 2004 season, Hooper was signed by the Detroit Tigers. He spent most of the season with Toledo and in one game, played an inning at each of the nine positions. Hooper finally made his Major League debut on July 9th, 2005. He appeared in six games with the Tigers that season and recorded his first major league hit off Minnesota Twins pitcher Terry Mulholland. The following season, Hooper appeared in eight games with the Tigers, recording his first major league walk and run scored.
"Kevin is a great addition to the Wingnuts organization”, added Beauchamp. “Not only are we getting a Major League talent on the field, but a player whose experience will allow him to lead and set an example for the younger players, who will undoubtedly look up to him”.
Hooper is now the 22nd player signed by the Wingnuts and is penciled in as the opening day starting shortstop. Other additions to the Wingnuts roster today include pitchers Austin Redwine and Daniel Caldwell, Venezuelan pitchers Jean Granados, Richard Salazar and Gustavo Mata and catcher Felipe Del Rosario. The Wingnuts will begin their inaugural season on May 7th with a three-game home stand versus the Sioux City Explorers.