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Arizona soccer’s Iliana Hocking and Ella Hatteberg don’t have memories of their dads’ careers in MLB but they still gained an edge

Arizona’s Iliana Hocking (21) against No. 10 Pepperdine on Sept. 11, 2022 at Mulcahy Stadium
Photo by Ary Frank / Arizona Athletics

When meeting new teammates, learning what things you have in common outside of your sport can be an interesting experience. It was especially unique for Arizona soccer players Iliana Hocking and Ella Hatteberg. Fifth-year senior Hocking and freshman defender Hatteberg are both the daughters of former Major League Baseball players.

“Before Ella came in as a freshman, someone did tell me that her dad also played,” Hocking said. “We’ve talked about it before how like, her dad is kind of like the center of Moneyball and my dad has a little little part in it.”

Both Wildcats were very young when their fathers retired from careers in MLB, so memories of those days are mostly filtered through the stories of others. One of those filters is the movie Moneyball, which has Chris Pratt playing a fictionalized version of Ella’s father Scott Hatteberg.

The former catcher and first baseman is largely reduced to a single home run in the popular imagination. That home run propelled the Oakland A’s to their 20th straight win in 2002, which set an American League record at the time.

“My dad always says how they kind of make him sound like he was terrible baseball player and then just randomly hit a home run,” Ella said with a laugh.

That home run was hit before Ella was born, but Moneyball gave her some idea of those times. The film—which she said she’s seen at least 10 times—also gave her other memories.

“We were there onset and at the premiere, so that was fun,” Ella said. “We got to meet Chris Pratt, Brad Pitt, all the big stars. Chris Pratt, he wiggled my tooth 200 times on the red carpet, because I was like six years old and wanted to tell him that my tooth was wiggly. So he started wiggling it.”

“I wasn’t invited,” Iliana deadpanned.

Iliana’s memories of her dad, utility player Dennis “Denny” Hocking, as a player are also filtered through mass media.

“I only have like one memory,” Iliana said. “I remember seeing a TV and my dad being on it, and like pointing to it and being like, ‘oh, that’s Dad,’ but I don’t remember going to the games or anything.”

That’s not to say that both young women weren’t influenced by their fathers’ professional careers or, in Iliana’s case, her mother’s experience in college basketball. Both describe those experiences as entirely positive because their parents understood what it meant to be elite athletes and the internal pressure that athletes put on themselves.

“My parents were so like, ‘do whatever you want, we’re gonna support you no matter what,’” Iliana said. “After games, I’ve never had like those hard talks in the car. They were just like, ‘Oh, good job.’ And I’m like, ‘I played terrible.’ And they’re like, ‘No, you didn’t.” I’m like, ‘You guys are biased. You’re going to say I did good no matter what.’ Honestly, I think it’s so much better that my parents didn’t put any pressure on me, because it’s really made me enjoy this sport and not get burnt out because there’s no pressure on that side. And I can always look at them for support. Instead of being scared to ask their opinion. I can always go to them and it’s more a comforting talking to them.”

The lack of pressure also came in the form of letting their daughters determine their own athletic paths. Neither girl ever had a passion for softball or baseball. Ella never played. Iliana and her twin sister Penelope played softball briefly, but Iliana described it as “boring.”

“When you’re younger, it’s just like you’re just kind of standing there,” Iliana said. “I remember it was nice having my sister, but it was like I would have to play shortstop and have to throw it to my sister at first or I’d play first and she’d have to throw it to me. I don’t know, like soccer, when you play it’s always active. It’s always fun. There’s always action. Softball, it’s just like, ‘Oh, I’m standing here.’ And sometimes you could never touch the ball in the game. I think when you’re like eight years old, it’s super hard. You want to be active and I did have a big interest in sports, so it was boring and I would just stand there. Obviously, I think it looks way more fun now if I stuck with it. It feels like they’re having a great time on our Arizona softball team but I couldn’t get past that.”

Like Iliana and her sister, Ella and her two sisters all ended up in soccer, although her sisters briefly tried softball.

“Probably disappointed my dad a little bit,” Ella said.

Baseball still plays a big part in the lives of both families, though. Scott works in the Oakland A’s organization as what Ella calls “kind of a high-level scout.” Denny works for Bally Sports doing pre- and post-game work for the Anaheim Angels. He is also the coach of the U.S. U18 national team.

“They played a game (Tuesday),” Iliana said. “They just had pool play. They went undefeated, and now they go on to Supers. So, it’s going good for them and it’s fun to watch.”

Iliana’s younger brother Jarrod kept the family tradition going. He will be playing baseball for UCLA, meaning all three of the Hocking children will play high-level college sports. Penelope played soccer at USC for four years before transferring to Penn State for her COVID-19 year.

For Iliana and Ella, though, there are blessings to be found in striking out on a path different from the one their elders walked.

“For my brother, it’s really helpful that he has my dad to be able to coach him and really talk him through maybe mechanics on his swing or defense,” Iliana said. “But sometimes it’s like you’re almost living in your parents’ footsteps, too. So I don’t think my brother has this pressure, but there’s definitely a chance that could happen, where it’d be like, ‘Oh, my dad did this. I need to be great.’ I think it’s nice just having your own sport, having your own experiences.”

UC Davis (3-3-2) @ Arizona (2-2-2)

When and where: The Wildcats’ final match before Pac-12 play starts will be held at Mulcahy Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 18. Kickoff starts at 1 p.m. MST.

Live Stats: In-game stats can be found at Arizona Live Stats.

How to follow along: Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71 for live tweets of matches and news during the week.