Luke Hochevar has an extra reason to get excited about the arrival of fall this year.
The Royals pitcher, who has been sidelined this season while recovering from elbow surgery, ordinarily is counting down the days until hunting season opens.
This year? Well, he has been a bit preoccupied … with the same playoff fever that has temperatures rising in Kansas City.
“I want to be part of that dogpile if we make it to the playoffs,” said Hochevar, 31, who has been with the Royals since 2007. “Even though I haven’t played this year, I’ve suited up and been there.
“It’s tough not being involved, but I still feel like part of the team.”
And when baseball ends? The second season will begin.
Hochevar wastes little time transitioning from baseball to hunting. In his mind, there’s no time to recuperate from the rigors of a long season — not when the deer are stirring and the ducks and geese are flying.
Since his childhood days, he has been an avid hunter. The day after the baseball season ends, he often is on his farm in northeast Kansas, sitting in a tree stand with his bow.
“One year, my first day out, I shot my biggest buck ever,” Hochevar said. “It was a monster. (Royals reliever) Greg Holland shot a nice buck on my place last year, too.
“It’s a great way to wind down from a long season. You get out there away from everything, and you’re in a different world.”
But fall isn’t all about deer hunting for Hochevar. He also is an avid waterfowl hunter, chasing ducks and geese whenever he gets a chance. He has a duck lease in west Tennessee, the state where he played college ball (University of Tennessee), and he actively manages it to attract waterfowl.
He has become so active in his duck hunting, in fact, that he has become a member of a second team — Team Banded, which promotes waterfowl-hunting equipment made by Banded.
Hochevar became part of Banded’s pro staff through his ties with baseball. Christian Curtis, vice president of product development for Banded, is from Sikeston, Mo., and was friends with former Dodgers player Blake DeWitt, who also was from Sikeston.
DeWitt was friends with Jonathan Broxton when they played for the Dodgers in 2008 and 2009. Broxton, who was traded to the Royals in 2012, is an avid hunter and got to be good friends with Hochevar.
When Hochevar called Banded one day to check on how to adapt one of Banded’s blinds to his duck boat, he and Curtis chatted. And an instant friendship was struck.
“Hunters just seem to bond,” Curtis said. “We hit it off right away.
“He has a passion for hunting. When he isn’t talking baseball, he is talking hunting.”
Curtis said there are plans to film one of Banded Nation’s “The Fowl Life” television shows at Hochevar’s duck lease in January.
“There isn’t that much involved in managing for deer if you have good land,” he said. “But it’s different for waterfowl. You need good water, food and habitat.
“We have rice and millet on our land, and we pump to flood some of those crops. If the ducks come through at the right time, we can have some great hunting.”
For Hochevar, hunting has been a lifelong passion. Growing up in eastern Colorado, he remembers the day his father first took him on a goose hunt.
“I was in fourth grade,” Hochevar said. “All dad had to do was take me hunting one time and I was hooked.
“Just watching the geese come into the calls and the decoys was really exciting.”
From there, father and son were out often, hunting geese and ducks.
“We’d go out before school,” Hochevar said. “I remember barely getting to school on time.
“I would be taking my camo off in the parking lot and running into class.”
That love of hunting has endured.
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.