Chris Hess has his hometown listed as North Kingstown, Rhode Island. With that in mind, most people would figure he’d be a Boston Red Sox fan.
“I was born in California, I grew up there for 10 years, so I grew up an Angels fan and then my family is from Chicago, so there’s a few Chicago teams mixed in there,” Hess explained.
That would account for Hess declaring David Eckstein as his favorite player growing up. “I really love David Eckstein because of the way he played. He was all business all the time, getting after it all the time.”
Watching Hess play, you see a lot of the same qualities in his game. Hess plays at full speed at all times. He was selected in the 17th round of the draft by the New York Yankees after starring at Rhode Island University. Proximity wasn’t the only reason why chose to play for the Rams. “Boston College and UConn were the two I talked to, because I committed to URI before the junior deadline came up, so those were the teams I reached out to and we had conversations like that and URI worked out to where it was in my backyard. I liked the school before I liked baseball there and then the baseball program was a good program too whereas it worked out. I looked at the area and the school and baseball, it all checked out.”
Hess excelled playing mostly second base at Rhode Island. He led the Rams in hits while batting .347 and stealing 12 bases. He also collected 19 triples putting him first in that category in Rhode Island’s record books.
When draft time came, Hess had just finished his redshirt junior year at Rhode Island and was playing for the Ocean State Waves in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The Yankees, Reds, Rays, Twins and Angels were among the teams who scouted Hess, but he didn’t pay any attention to the draft. “When the process happened, I told my agent I didn’t want to hear anything, to call me after it was over. There was a week there where I was playing summer ball and wanted to enjoy it and didn’t want to focus on the draft,” Hess said.
Hess was golfing with some of his Waves teammates when he got a heads up from his agent. “I was golfing with two of my friends because we had an off day from summer ball. My agent called me and told me I was coming up and stay patient. And then Matt Hyde called me and told me to tune into the draft, so we tuned in on the golf course and people were playing by. So we were sitting there with the draft tracker and the three of us sort of stood up and hugged each other and high-fived and then my phone started blowing up from everyone calling me,” Hess said. “I answered three calls. Matt Hyde, My agent and my parents and my brother. Everyone else got pushed back until I was on the plane and answered the text messages.”
When the call came, Hess already had his mind made up to play professional baseball and forego his final season at Rhode Island. His head coach, Raphael Cerrato, had a couple of discussions with him before the draft. “I talked to my head coach before the season and then we met again in the middle season and I had been there for four years because I was a redshirt and he just said I was ready to go to the next step. If you get it, then you should take, you can’t bank on yourself coming back. It was the perfect mix between he thought I was ready and I was comfortable going,” Hess said.
Hess signed with the Yankees on June 15 and was sent to short-season A Staten Island for the start of their season on June 22. He only lasted four games there before being sent up to the Charleston RiverDogs of Low A on June 27. At Charleston, he didn’t see consistent playing time and eventually was sent to the Gulf Coast League Yankees West team on August 13.
Hess takes a simple approach when he’s at the plate. “I try to be as clear headed as I can and trying not to think too except for get a pitch I can do damage with and hit it hard. Just get a pitch I can damage with. I try to free my hands up more, not get so coiled up in the back, spinning more linear directional toward the pitcher and staying simple.”
In the field, Hess has been playing second base and third base and has been working on being consistent with his approach to the ball. “Good rhythm, catching the ball on the right tempo, on the left side of my body, getting around the ball well. Pretty much the basic stuff everyday.”
His excellent speed helps him in all facets of the game. “Offensively, it’s more a mindset, just trying to make the outfielders stop, just go until they stop you. Defensively, it’s nice, it helps you have more range and with mistakes. When you misread a ball, you have the speed to make up for it.”
While in high school, Hess played both soccer and basketball in addition to baseball. Those other sports helped prepare him for the diamond. “For me in high school, conditioning with soccer was long distance and basketball turned into short sprints and with baseball I didn’t have to work out with those two sports. There was a lot of footwork with soccer, a lot of hand-eye with basketball with shooting and passing. With baseball, you see all of those things into one where you’re sprinting, changing direction and the endurance of playing nine innings helps out too.”
As far as off the field, Hess has participated in Vs. Cancer to raise money to help children with cancer along with his Rhode Island teammates. “We did two years in college and I had some crazy hair, like long top, short sides. It was a more playful thing, but it really helps out. It was nice to give back and people reaching out that I hadn’t seen or talk to in a few years on Facebook donating and reaching out and it’s nice to see how much they cared and wanted to help out.”
Hess’ on field personality is quite different from his off field attitude. “I’m more of a laid back kind of guy, I’m not very outgoing. Just kind of hang back, do my thing.”