Countdown to Cooperstown: Another milestone for ex-Wildcatby Anthony Gimino on Sep. 07, 2010, under Sports
As a minor-leaguer who couldn’t hit, former Arizona Wildcat shortstop Trevor Hoffman had nothing to lose when he started over as a pitcher. His first time on the mound in this experiment was the Arizona’s 1991 All-Pro Alumni Game.
He hit his first batter.
Things managed to get a lot, lot better in the next two decades.
Hoffman, a future Hall of Famer and one of the most accomplished athletes to ever pass through UA, extended his major league record with a milestone save Tuesday night. He worked a scoreless ninth inning in Milwaukee’s 4-2 victory over St. Louis for save No. 600.
And baseball cheered.
In a 2006 story for the Tucson Citizen, sports columnist Corky Simpson talked to former UA pitching coach Jim Wing about Hoffman and wrote:
So, how come a Hall of Fame big-league arm wasn’t used in college?
Easy. Hoffman was the best shortstop in the country — with, understandably, the best arm. His range at short was outstanding and his strength, at 6 feet, 200 pounds, was extraordinary. He was also an outstanding college hitter. His average in 1988 was .371.
The following year, the Wildcats had a right-handed pitcher by the name of Scott Erickson, who led the nation in victories with 18. But it was that cannon attached to the right side of Hoffman’s body that left mouths agape everywhere the Wildcats played.
J.T. Snow, the Wildcat first baseman at the time … respected Hoffman’s arm as much as anybody.
“J.T. used to come into the dugout and say, ‘Holy cow, he’s tearing my glove apart,’” Wing said. “You knew that somewhere down the line, with his arm, Trevor was going to be given a chance by somebody to pitch.”
That somebody was the Cincinnati Reds, who drafted Hoffman in the summer of 1989 and was nearly out of baseball two years later before the switch to pitcher.
The Reds, however, weren’t savvy enough to hold on to Hoffman. The Florida Marlins grabbed him the 1992 expansion draft before sending him to San Diego during the 1993 season.
Now, he’s 42 and it’s been a while since he had the 96-mph fastball he did when he converted to pitching. He is, perhaps, in the final month of his big-league career. It has been a tough season, but Hoffman, with his trademark change-up, battled back after losing his closer’s job early in the season.
Said Hoffman after Tuesday’s game: “If you love the game, it’s going to love you back.”