Varsity Extra

They battled for rival Boise high schools. Now they’re trying to make it back to MLB together.

Boise High grad James Hoyt, right, pours beer on teammate Chris Devenski after the Astros clinched the AL West title in September.
Boise High grad James Hoyt, right, pours beer on teammate Chris Devenski after the Astros clinched the AL West title in September. AP

As members of the rival Boise and Borah high baseball teams, they battled countless times growing up on Boise’s fields.

Thirteen years after they both graduated, James Hoyt and Stephen Fife find themselves on the same club one step shy of the majors, each trying to add another chapter to their wild careers.

The Houston Astros traded Hoyt, a reliever and 2005 Boise High grad, to the Cleveland Indians on Friday. The trade reunites him with Fife, a starting pitcher and 2005 Borah High grad, on the Indians’ Triple-A club.

Hoyt and Fife are battling to make it back to the majors after careers worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Hoyt, 31, quit baseball after finishing his college career with an injury, twice as many walks as strikeouts and an 18.82 ERA. He found himself scrubbing boats for a living and paid $100 to try out for an independent league two years later.

He pitched for a team in Mexico before catching the eye of an Atlanta Braves scout and signing a minor-league deal at 26. The Braves later traded him to the Astros and he made his MLB debut at 29 in August 2016. Since then, he’s shuffled back and forth between the Astros and their Triple-A club.

He’s posted a 4.40 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 71 ⅔ innings in the big leagues. He won a World Series ring with Houston last season, traveling with the team and spending games in the dugout as a non-roster member of the team.

He’s made one appearance with the Astros this season after a strained oblique sidelined him during spring training. Between 2016 and 2017, he had the sixth highest swinging-strike rate in the majors at 16.8 percent. But he’s struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark, allowing 12 home runs in 71 ⅔ innings.

Stephen Fife
Borah High grad Stephen Fife returned to the United States this spring after pitching in Japan last year. Carlos Osorio AP

Fife, 31, was never a late bloomer. He starred on Idaho’s first Little League World Series team in 1999, was drafted in the third round in 2008 and made his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2012.

Fife went 4-6 with a 3.66 ERA in three seasons with Los Angeles before injuries derailed his career. Tommy John surgery in 2014 cost him a full season and he’s toiled in the minors ever since, battling a litany of injuries and getting released from the Dodgers, Cubs and Marlins.

He asked for his release from the Marlins last summer to sign with a Japanese team. He returned to the U.S. this season, signing a minor-league deal with the Indians, his fifth MLB club.

A right elbow injured has sidelined him the past month. He returned from the disabled list Thursday, throwing three scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Indians' Triple-A club, the Columbus Clippers.

Other Idaho high school graduates in the minor leagues include Bishop Kelly’s Josh Osich (Giants, Triple-A); Twin Falls’ Cy Sneed (Astros, Triple-A) and Damon Jones (Phillies, Low-A); Eagle’s Andrew Ely (Mets, Double-A) and Alex Guerrero (Yankees, rookie); and Rocky Mountain’s Isaac Anderson (Dodgers, High-A).

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