In 2015, Hank Conger became a leader in the Houston Astros’ clubhouse as they advanced to the postseason. Whatever happened to him?
Many sports teams will have had that one player who seems to be the heart of the team and then disappears the next season. For the 2015 Houston Astros, Hank Conger was the comedic hype-man for a young dugout. While only playing one season with the Astros, Conger has been a household name, as he contributed to Houston’s first playoff push in 10 years dating back to the 2005 World Series.
The Astros traded Carlos Perez and Nick Tropeano to the Los Angeles Angels for Conger after the 2014 season. At the time, the Astros had put many games on the knees of Jason Castro, and the organization was looking for a defensive backup for the then-All-Star. Conger entered the Astros clubhouse with much more than his baseball skills; the former first round pick brought a fun loving attitude that rubbed off on a group of young sluggers. Conger looked to be a catcher of the future while being a high school second team All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Washington while also holding an offer from USC.
After an underwhelming career with the Angels, Conger was never optioned in Houston like his time in Los Angeles. The switch-hitting catcher added a more versatile bat while slashing .229/.311/.448 with 11 home runs. These numbers were better than Castro’s, but what he picked up offensively, he lacked defensively. Conger has been known for his size and ability to block pitches in the dirt, but in 69 games, he allowed 42 stolen bases. His pop-time was decreasing, and his bat wasn’t valuable enough to keep around much longer. On Dec. 2, 2015, Conger was shipped to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations. The fun loving big man was gone, and while the Astros fell out of the postseason talk the next season, Conger fell off as well as the backup catcher for the Rays.
Conger was limited to 49 games for a Rays team looking for anything they could. His numbers dropped to .194/.265/.306, and come July, he was optioned to the Durham Bulls. Conger’s struggles continued in the minors as he was assigned outright to the Bulls. At the end of the season, Conger elected free agency. The Arizona Diamondbacks would then scoop Conger up a few months later on a minor-league deal, but his struggles continued. In July 2017, his MLB career came to an end after he was released.
Conger, the man behind the home run robot dance, wasn’t done just yet. He signed with Pericos de Puebla of the Mexican League in May 2018 but was released two months later. This concluded the major league career of Conger. He finished his MLB career with .221/.294/.366 and 31 home runs over a seven-year career. Conger totaled a little over $4 million during his career according to Baseball-Reference.
In December 2019, Conger moved from the field to the dugout, as he took the catching coach job for the Lotte Giants of the KBO. It is certain that Conger, 32, won’t return to the game, but he brought an energy to the 2015 Astros that the team desperately needed.