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Military, fatherhood experiences come into play for first baseman

Eric Hinostroza playing first base

From The Ichabod - Spring 2020

When most college baseball players hear “WAR,” the first thing that comes to mind is likely the sabermetric wins above replacement. Eric Hinostroza is not like most college baseball players. Although the sport remains a passion for Washburn’s everyday first baseman, fighting real-life battles has put the importance of statistics in perspective.

At age 25, Hinostroza already has a lifetime of experiences. Between his first and second seasons at Kansas City Kansas Community College, the Brandon, Florida, native got married, became a father of two and spent four years serving in the U.S. Army.

By the time he received his associate degree and transferred to Washburn, his cumulative real-world experiences were enough to diminish any pressure that comes in the batter’s box. In his first year with the Ichabods this spring, Hinostroza led the team in hits, runs and at-bats, and was the only player to start all 22 games of the shortened season.

Despite being a newcomer, it’s little wonder Hinostroza was Head Coach Harley Douglas’ most called-upon player.

“You’ve got someone who went to war and was in combat situations that had casualties,” said Douglas, ba ’02. “That helps put things into perspective, especially for younger guys who just got out of high school. They’re overwhelmed with tests, practice and all this, but he’s got a family, memories and experiences. So, for him to be able to use that as an example was beneficial for us.”

Hinostroza can’t delve into details about where he was deployed, but said he was primarily in east Africa. He remains a member of the National Guard, fulfilling a sense of duty he said he learned from his parents, who didn’t serve in the military, but advocated its importance to their three sons. Hinostroza’s 32-year-old brother, Fernando, served in the Navy, and his 30-year-old brother, Alan, was in the Marines.

“A huge thing for them was us getting out and doing something bigger than ourselves,” Hinostroza said of his parents, Fernando and Ana.

Hinostroza and his wife, Emily, now have a family of their own, with a 4-year-old son, Emmanuel, and a 1-year-old daughter, Elicia. Following his honorable discharge from the Army in 2018, Hinostroza returned to KCKCC to continue his education and baseball career.

Eric Hinostroza with his wife, Emily, and children, Emmanuel and Elicia

“I definitely had to grow up real quick, especially after my first year of college,” Hinostroza said. “I had to be more than just an athlete and college kid. I had to take on more responsibilities than anybody on the team, just between my home life and school.”

Matt Goldbeck, Hinostroza’s coach at KCKCC, was happy to welcome him back to the team. In his playing days, Goldbeck spent two years at KCKCC before transferring to Washburn, and suggested Hinostroza do the same. The Kansas Bureau of Investigations Forensic Science Center on Washburn's campus also helped attract Hinostroza, who already had his mind made up to major in forensics investigation and earn a bachelor of criminal justice.

“I had a class this semester in there,” he said of the lab that opened in 2015. “The resources they have for that program are outstanding. That’s why it was one of my top choices to go here.”

Watching Hinostroza’s junior college games and talking to Goldbeck gave Douglas an idea Washburn was getting a quality player, but he didn’t anticipate how the addition would impact the rest of the team.

“I expected him to have an impact on the field but didn’t expect the type of impact he had in the clubhouse,” Douglas said. “He became a leader of the team immediately. I wasn’t sure how he’d mesh with 18-year-old kids, but he immediately made really strong relationships in a unique situation.”

As the Ichabods’ elder statesmen, Hinostroza said he often finds himself offering guidance about life more than baseball.

“They always ask questions, especially about the military,” he said of his teammates, “but also pretty much anything about being an adult, in general, like having to pay bills and having a wife
and kids.”

Hinostroza may have more time than he originally anticipated to share wisdom with teammates. The COVID-19 pandemic brought an abrupt end to Washburn’s season with an 11-11 record, but it could mean an extra year of eligibility for Hinostroza, who, six years after his college baseball career began, is almost used to the unexpected.

There’s no telling what the following months will bring, and how long it will be until the team returns to practice, but unlike his last prolonged break from baseball, Hinostroza knows this offseason, he’ll be staying put.

“I love it here,” Hinostroza said of Washburn. “I’m going to get my degree, then apply for the FBI when I’m almost done with school. Washburn has everything I needed and desired.”

The Ichabod magazine fall 2020

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2020 fall edition online and look for it in mailboxes in October.

View past editions

 

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