Kevin Hooper, born December 7th, 1976 in Lawrence, KS, is a former Major Leaguer who enjoyed a 10-year playing career in professional baseball. When Hooper retired at the end of the 2008 season, the former Shocker had won three championships, spent parts of two seasons in the Major Leagues, and totaled 1,116 base hits. Hooper was named the second manager in Wingnuts’ history on November 5th, 2008.
Over his four years as Wingnuts’ manager, Hooper has guided the team to four consecutive winning seasons, an overall record of 222-170 (.566), three division titles, and a berth in the 2012 American Association Championship Series. Since Hooper took over as manager, the Wingnuts have sold the contracts of 15 players to Major League organizations, while featuring 11 Mid-Season All-Stars, 10 Postseason All-Stars, the 2009 American Association Player of the Year, the 2009 American Association Right- and Left-Handed Pitchers of the Year, and the 2012 American Association Pitcher of the Year.
In his first season as a professional manager, Hooper guided the Wingnuts to a league-best 58-38 (.604) record, and a near wire-to-wire victory in the North Division's first half. The Wingnuts clinched the division title on June 28th—amidst what was eventually a franchise-best nine-game winning streak—and ended the half with at least a nine-game lead over the other four teams in the North. The Wingnuts came within one game of claiming the second half title, winning 21 of their final 33 contests. Seven of Hooper's players were selected to play in the American Association All-Star game at Grand Prairie, while five made the league's Postseason All-Star Team. At the end of the season, Hooper's peers voted him the American Association's Manager of the Year.
Hooper's Wingnuts finished 50-46 (.521) in 2010, overcoming a rough start to post a 30-18 second half record that saw the club miss both the second half division title and the wild card by a single game. It was the second-best 'half' record in league history for a team that did not make the playoffs. Wichita ranked fourth in the American Association with a collective .295 batting average, and led the circuit in ERA for a second straight season at 4.05. Four more Wingnuts were voted to the 2010 All-Star Game—an event hosted at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium—while Hooper himself was selected as a coach for the event.
The Wingnuts returned to the postseason under Hooper in 2011, clinching the American Association's newly-formed Central Division by one game at 55-45 (.550). Wichita led the league in hitting (.311) for the first time in team history, while finishing third in ERA (4.52), and second in fielding percentage (.975). Wichita also had two more players make the American Association's Postseason All-Star Team.
2012 marked the most successful season to date for Hooper and the Wingnuts, as the team set a new franchise-best for victories with a 59-41 (.590) record. The Wingnuts reached the American Association Championship Series for the first time in their history following a three-game sweep of Laredo in the Division Series. Wichita ranked second in the league with a .291 team batting average and finished first in fielding percentage for a third time in five years (.980). The Wingnuts broke another team record with an 11-game winning streak in early-June, and added an eight-game streak that began less than a week later. Three Wingnuts made the Postseason All-Star Team, including starting pitcher Josh Lowey who set an American Association single-season record with 15 wins.
Prior to turning pro, Hooper was a four-year star at Wichita State University, and helped the Shockers reach the College World Series in 1996. Hooper finished his career at WSU with a .358 batting average, and still ranks in the top 15 in Shocker history in runs (5th, 287), hits (11th, 310), doubles (12th, 58), triples (9th, 17), and walks (6th, 189).
When Hooper’s college career ended in 1999, he was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 8th round of the 1999 draft. Hooper shot quickly through the minor leagues, winning a championship with the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League (A) in 2001, and then reaching the Triple-A level with the Calgary Cannons in just his third full professional season in 2002. Midway through his first season at Triple-A, Hooper amassed a 31-game hitting streak with Calgary in which he was 48 for 127 (.348). Hooper totaled six seasons at the Triple-A level, including back-to-back International League championships with the Toledo Mud Hens in 2005 and 2006.
Hooper finally reached the Major Leagues in 2005 when he was called up by the Detroit Tigers. On July 21st of that year, Hooper collected his first Major League hit with a single off of Minnesota Twins’ left-hander Terry Mulholland. Hooper returned to Toledo in 2006 and earned another call to the Big Leagues later that season. Hooper played one more year with the Mud Hens in 2007 and hit .301.
Hooper returned to his home state in 2008 to play for the Wingnuts during their inaugural season. On May 28th versus Sioux Falls, Hooper picked up his 1,000th career base hit with an infield single. Hooper went on to win the American Association batting title with a .373 average that ranked 40 points ahead of the second place finisher. The 40-point margin is the largest by a batting champion in American Association history. Hooper also stole 33 consecutive bases without getting caught, and was never thrown out by an opposing catcher in 35 steal attempts. He led all American Association shortstops with a .973 fielding percentage, and anchored an infield defense that committed the fewest errors (92) and turned the most double plays (109). The .973 mark remained a league record until 2011. Hooper collected two hits as the starting shortstop for the North Division in the American Association All-Star Game in St. Paul. He was also named to the American Association’s Postseason All-Star Team at shortstop.
Hooper now resides in Valley Center, KS with his wife Lindsey and their two daughters Lucy (8) and Laney (5).
1999 – Utica, New York-Penn League (A-)
2000 – Kane County, Midwest League (A)
2001 – Kane County, Midwest League (A)
2001 – Portland, Eastern League (AA)
2002 – Calgary, Pacific Coast League (AAA)
2003 – Albuquerque, Pacific Coast League (AAA)
2004 – Albuquerque, Pacific Coast League (AAA)
2004 – Omaha, Pacific Coast League (AAA)
2004 – Columbus, International League (AAA)
2005 – Toledo, International League (AAA)
2005 – Detroit, American League (MLB)
2006 – Toledo, International League (AAA)
2006 – Detroit, American League (MLB)
2007 – Toledo, International League (AAA)
2008 – Wichita, American Association (Ind.)
2009 – MANAGER, Wichita Wingnuts, American Association
2010 – MANAGER, Wichita Wingnuts, American Association
2011 – MANAGER, Wichita Wingnuts, American Association
2012 – MANAGER, Wichita Wingnuts, American Association
2013 – MANAGER, Wichita Wingnuts, American Association