Trevor Hoffman Taking His Time Before Delivering Next Pitch in Retirement
The drive from coastal San Diego to greater Phoenix? A prolonged exhale, Hoffman grateful that his new life as a former ballplayer still includes baseball.
"I don't know what I would have done had I not been able to get on the highway and drive out for spring training," said the save king, who retired from pitching last month. "Sitting at home, it would've have been like, 'I'm missing out on something.' "
It's an odd sight nonetheless, Hoffman with fungo bat, standing on a mound yet well behind the rubber, eyeing not the catcher but a Padres pitcher in front of him.
Don't call him Coach Hoffman, though. That title fits his older brother Glenn, San Diego's third-base coach.
Hoffman the younger, now 43, is at Padres camp as an observer, and he won't be here for long. Sunday he'll return to his wife and three boys. He'll resurface with the Padres, in both their clubhouse and their front office, but there will be family picnics, beach parties and youth games that baseball used to trump.
"A gig like this is pretty awesome," he said, "because it's allowing me to still be around the game that I love, and be around the organization I feel comfortable with, and reconnect with a different lifestyle with my family."
Should Padres hitters need more confidence -- and with Adrian Gonzalez wearing a Red Sox uniform, they likely will -- they could have Hoffman throw batting practice.
His right elbow still aches, Hoffman revealing Tuesday that he received three cortisone injections last year with the Brewers. Declaring he's "not Jonesing to pitch again," he said the harsh messages delivered by opponents' bats were reinforced by a postseason video review of his pitching.
"My pitches didn't have the same action," he said. "They didn't have the same life.
"A sharp knife became dull."
He's still valuable to the Padres just because he's Trevor Hoffman, franchise icon.
But the Padres also grow smarter with him around, his brain partly responsible for those 601 saves. His baseball IQ was such that when Red Sox president Larry Lucchino would return to San Diego, where he had worked as Padres CEO, he sounded out Hoffman on a variety of baseball subjects.
Hoffman reinvented himself as a pitcher after failing as a minor league shortstop, then reinvented himself as a changeup artist after a shoulder injury robbed him of a hot fastball.
Might he reinvent himself again within baseball? He says he "has opinions" that can help the Padres, once he finds his way in his new roles.
If $80 million in gross salary is any indication, his time will be his own for as long as he desires. "I'm looking forward to things that I've missed out on and I deserve that with my family."
He wouldn't be the first athlete to taste a sweet new life and decide that full-time work no longer is for him.
My sense is that Hoffman will never get all the dirt out of his spikes. He's a baseball lifer. I think the game will tug at him. So many times, I saw him in a nearly empty clubhouses, talking baseball with a coach or teammate.
"I'm passionate about this game," he said. "It's what I know. It's what I am. I spent 18 years developing that degree. There's some value to that.
"I've seen my contemporaries sit at home. And they get bored."