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Before his days as a star quarterback at Saint Ignatius, Hoyer pretended to be Bernie Kosar in his backyard, slinging around the football in that iconic number 19 jersey.
But baseball is close to Hoyer’s heart, too. His family had Cleveland Indians season tickets during the team’s run of dominance in the 1990s. Hoyer remembers his parents letting him wander around Jacobs Field as a 12-year-old; one of his first real moments of freedom as a kid.
“I knew this place like it was my house,” said Hoyer. “I dreamed of pitching for the Indians and playing quarterback for the Browns.”
So on Saturday at Progressive Field, when the Browns quarterback threw out the first pitch with his family by his side, the magnitude of the moment was authentic. Sandy Alomar Jr., one of Hoyer’s favorite players as a kid, caught the first pitch. The two shared a laugh when Hoyer recalled Alomar’s 1997 MVP performance in the all-star game.
Hoyer understands this city perhaps better than any other professional athlete in Cleveland.
On Friday, Hoyer tweeted this quote from LeBron James about coming home to the Cavaliers.
“It really hit home with what LeBron said about Northeast Ohio,” said Hoyer, expanding on his tweet. “LeBron grew up here. He knows what it is. It’s a blue collar town. It’s blue collar country. Everyone in this area, you work for what you get. And I think that’s what he was trying to say. I’ve never had a chance to say something like that before, but that’s kind of been my philosophy my whole career. Nothings ever been handed to me. I’ve worked for what I’ve got.”
Some native Clevelander’s have said LeBron’s return is the biggest moment in the town’s sports history. Hoyer thinks that could be true, but James’ return isn’t just about winning NBA games. LeBron’s return has undeniably sparked a revival of confidence and hope for everyone, not just sports fans, in Northeast Ohio.
“Like he said in his article he realizes it’s bigger than basketball,” said Hoyer. “He means so much to this community. I think all the bad feelings were washed away because it’s kind of like welcome home for the prodigal son.”
“For me, I’m a Clevelander first. Whether I play for the Browns or not – I want this city to do well. For him to come back, what it’s going to do for the industry, the economy, it’s huge. Until I see him in a uniform it almost feels like, is this for real? Because he means that much to this area.”
By no means is Hoyer comparing himself to LeBron James, but the Browns quarterback clearly understands the meaning of playing professional sports at home. Hoyer isn’t just playing football in front of his family. It’s old teachers, coaches, neighbors – everyone.
Running out of the tunnel and playing in front of people you grew up with changes everything. Each touchdown pass is a little more magnificent. Each slam dunk has a little more juice on it. Especially in Cleveland. People ride and die with the Browns, Cavs and Indians. Every single day.
Northeast Ohioans take so much pride in their hometown athletes. The fact that Brian Hoyer grew up around that unrivaled Cleveland concept, makes the Browns quarterback strive for success more than most would.