Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman talks ahead of Tahoe golf tournament
IF YOU GO
What: 29th annual American Century Championships
When: July 10-15 (competitive rounds July 13-15)
Where: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
Scoring: Modified Stableford (1 for par, 3 fior birdie, 8 for hole-in-one, 10 for double-eagle and minus-2 for double bogey)
Defending champ: Mark Mulder
Purse: $600,000, $125,000 to the winner
Early favorites: Mark Mulder 5-2, Tony Romo 3-1, Mardy Fish 5-1, Eric Gagne 8-1, John Smoltz 10-1 and Jack Wagner 12-1.
Trevor Hoffman, an 18-year veteran reliever, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame later this summer. He retired with 601 saves, a mark later broken by Mariano Rivera. He had 12 seasons with at least 37 saves and 13 seasons with an ERA of less than 3.00. He was runner-up for the Cy Young Award and led the majors in saves in 1998 and 2006. On Tuesday, he visited with the media at Media Day for the 29th annual American Century Championships.
Q: It must be surreal to be going into the Hall of Fame
A: The full impact won’t come until I land in Cooperstown and start going through all the festivities, and ultimately walking out on stage with all the living Hall of Famers will be pretty heavy.
But getting a chance to go in with four other gentlemen Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones, along with two guys that came out of the Veterans Committee in Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, it’s going to be a great class and a lot of fun back there.
Q: Have you written your speech yet
A: Not totally. I have my “big statue marks” and I’m building around it. Gotten help from people. I’m trying to get away from a “thank-you fest” where I mention a zillion names. Kind of have a story. I think my story is unique. I’m not a 1-1 guy. I’m not a career guy with a particular organization. Changed my career after two years of pro ball. I think it will hit home with a lot of people.
Q: With so many high spots in your career, so many achievements, are there a couple of moments that maybe stood out because of drama or because of the fact that you’re able to triumph under really harrowing circumstances?
A: There’s a couple that have stood out over time. I think anytime you’re talking about individual accomplishments, to me they pale in comparison to the bigger picture, and that is something to do with the team. So to kind of correlate, passing Lee Smith at 479 was done at home after tying it the night before. We had a day game against Pittsburgh on Sunday, in a pennant race late in September. To be able to accomplish a personal goal but also being the concept of pushing toward a division title really was kind of the culmination of two great events. From a professional standpoint that was great.
Two days ago today on Saturday, it’s the 2-year anniversary of my boys playing together on a high school baseball field for the culmination of a CIF title that they were able to accomplish. And so as a proud dad sitting in the stands had no ability to do anything about it, which I’m kind of a power guy I like to be involved in everything, and couldn’t do it, it brought back a lot of fond memories thinking about your kids being able to be successful in something as well.
Q: What does 600 saves mean to you? It’s only been done twice, by Mariano and you. And does it seem like 20 years since you’ve been in the World Series?
A: It’s unbelievable 20 years has gone by that fast. It really has. I guess 600 is a battle of attrition more than anything, stay healthy long enough and being put in situations that you can kind of accrue those numbers.
Q: Who is the toughest hitter you faced.
A: Barry (Bonds) was mentioned before. Todd Helton. He had the ability to make adjustments quicker than you could pitch the pitch. Almost like he made adjustments when the ball was in the air going to home plate. He’d spoil a good change-up; a good situation. Kind of shake your head and wonder where to go from there. I remember Greg Maddux talking about trying to get Tony Gwynn out. He said screw tinking around, just throw a groover down the middle on pitch one. Heard Tony’s numbers were pretty good against Greg. Maybe I should have done that with Helton.
Q: You were a closer all of your career. Did you ever have a desire to be a starter or play a different role, or were you just happy to be a closer?
A: It was hard. There was nothing better than being yesterday’s winning pitcher because then you had four days to gloat about it and walk around like you were all that. But there’s something to be said for being able to show up to the yard and know that you had a chance to play every day. I stopped pitching at age 12; my dad said we don’t want to run you into an overzealous coach and burn out your arm. We’re going to see what you can do as an infielder.
And it took me a couple years into pro ball until they decided I couldn’t hit anymore and hit the first baseman at relatively close vicinity of getting an out. Let’s use that arm on the mound. I had a chance to kind of start for a year in the minor leagues just to try to figure out how to throw certain things and develop pitches. But I certainly gravitated to the pen. That was something that fit my personality.
Q: You didn’t start you career as a pitcher. You were a first baseman.
A: Shortstop. I was a middle infielder at the University of Arizona. The Reds drafted me as a middle infielder slash pitcher. I spent a year and a half (in the minors as a position player). I spent a half season in Billings (Montana) and did OK, hit .240. At Charleston, West Virginia had 28 errors at the (all-star) break. Had a hard time fielding the ball cleanly and making an accurate throw. I hit .210. It was a lot of failure to handle every day. Jimmy (Lett) and Mike (Griffin) talked to the higher-ups and see what I could do as a pitcher. I guess they liked what they saw, and they talked them (the Reds) into inviting me to spring training, and the rest is history.
Q: Some teams that are now starting relievers and having them pitch one inning or maybe a little more, how you feel that’s going to affect the game. Since you’re one of the greatest closers of all time, you have a good take on this, I’m sure.
A: We spoke a little bit about that this afternoon with Sergio (Romo) starting a game twice in Anaheim. I think some of it has been brought about based off of run-scoring percentages in the first inning for guys to kind of get rolling and get through that. But ultimately the starter’s going to have to go out at some point in time in the game whether it be the second or third inning, you might have similar issues. I think any way you look at it you’re trying to figure out a way to get through lineups and give your team the best opportunity to win.
Q: Give us your top three relievers today?
A: You’ve got to start with Craig Kimbrel in Boston. I think what he’s starting to do in his career, passing the 300 mark in saves. But the number of strikeouts he gets per nine is pretty intimidating, pretty amazing. Kenley Jansen up in Los Angeles has had a pretty nice run, won the Trevor Hoffman Award the last two years. And then I’m going to go with Brad Hand in San Diego. Brad has been an amazing addition to our ball club, not only getting the saves that he’s been getting the opportunity to, but mixing and matching, a lot of punchouts. One of the better lefties in the game. Hopefully we don’t lose him to somebody needing a little help in their bullpen.
Q: What would you tell kids (in high school or college) that have pro aspirations.
A: I’d tell them to see how the draft plays out. Sometimes your hand is played for you if you get drafted high enough. I’m a proponent of going to school and taking care of Plan B before you go in with the pressure of your livelihood. The first time out of the house shouldn’t be at 17. Not many are mature enough to handle it though more and more are becoming better and better at handling different situations. That is what college is for. You might blank on a few at-bats, but you can make those up in a summer league. The biggest thing for me was getting an education.
Q: With all you’ve accomplished through probably many that would aspire to try and be like you, when you were growing up who were your role models?
A: It started in the household. Really came down to what mom and dad provided for us. My dad being a Marine, served our country in World War II. My mother grew up in England, lived through the buzz bombs from Germany in northern England. And came over here to raise a family. And getting a chance to see how they went about their business and being very humble and providing for their family. And having two older brothers, nine years older and 13 years older and pretty successful in their own right in their careers, just kind of gave me a basis of what to go off of and what you wanted to stand for and hard work was a non-substitute. I was pretty lucky to have some great role models in the household.