J.R. House is used to being highly touted. Despite setting passing records as a prep quarterback and being offered a football scholarship by West Virginia University, he was a 5th round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1999 draft. In his full-season debut, he was named to the low-A All-Star game, MVP of the South Atlantic League, and Pittsburgh's organizational player of the year.
Even in 2000, House missed a month due to mononucleosis, but injuries continued to mount. In 2001, House hit the disabled list twice with strained left rib cage muscles. The following year, he was limited to 35 games on the season due to a hernia and then reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. In 2003, House didn't hit the playing fields until July after a slow recovery process from the elbow surgery. Finally, in 2004, the Pirates finally gave up waiting for House to be fully healthy. House, frustrated with his lack of progress in baseball, decided to pursue a career on the gridiron.
" I got fired. I didn't have a job and was in a sling and [West Virginia head football] coach Rodriquez, whose been recruiting me since I was in the ninth grade, asked me if I wanted to be a part of the program.
"I was like the prodigal son going back to my hometown and being able to play for them was just a dream come true."
After one season as the backup quarterback for the Mountaineers, J.R. House was ready to try his hand at baseball again. Special circumstances led him to the Houston Astros.
"I signed with the Astros because one of my neighbors is one of the head guys for the Astros' farm system. I was working out with them and they signed me and we went right to it."
"I had a chance to play everyday in Double "A" and try and work my way up"
Things certainly seemed to work out, as House hit .325/.376/.475 in his first 379 at bats. Moved up to triple-A, he managed a mind-boggling .412/.445/.675 batting line in 114 at bats. The Astros even rewarded House with a cup of coffee at the end of the season.
Entering his age 27 season, he knew that he needed to find the right organization to get a clean major league opportunity. Enter the Baltimore Orioles.
"We were talking to a bunch of teams and they were the most aggressive and they were giving me an opportunity to catch."
Although doubts about his defensive ability have plagued his career, House still considers himself a catcher first. But that doesn't mean he doesn't understand the value of being able to play multiple positions. The Orioles agree and made it a point to move him around in spring training.
"They had me in the outfield, first, third and catching. They more versatile you are, the better."
Through his first 99 at bats in 2007, House is hitting .303/.377/.414 in one of the toughest offensive environments in baseball.
"I just want to show the baseball world that my arm is healthy and that I can throw guys out. I just want to stay healthy and put up good numbers and show people that I am back."
Clearly, J.R. House is back. Though his future role is uncertain, he could have an impact on the Orioles this season. With all that he has overcome to get where he is now, you can bet that he will make the most of his opportunities.
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