Trevor Hoffman is leaning on an old friend: patience.
Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza had their Cooperstown tickets punched on Wednesday. But Hoffman, the Padres’ iconic closer, fell short in his bid to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Not that San Diego fans weren’t rooting for Hoffman. There’s few men or women to dot the area sports landscape matching the talent, skills and class of No. 51.
And while Hoffman’s backers are bummed, don’t expect to see the right-hander moping around.
Hoffman knows things you really want really aren’t easy to obtain. It’s a process, a grind, a test of one’s perseverance to reach a goal.
So Hoffman will wait until next year, showing the resolve that he displayed in racking up 601 saves.
Patience? Hoffman revealed it on countless occasions. He had to wait for his team to record outs 1-24. Then Hoffman would be summoned to get 25, 26 and 27, the toughest three in any game.
Patience? Hoffman didn’t exit the University of Arizona as a can’t-miss prospect on the mound. Instead he arrived as a strong-armed shortstop, one that could pick it but couldn’t hit it.
Not until making too many U-turns at the plate did he turn his career around by morphing into a pitcher.
“I could see the writing on the wall,” Hoffman recalled years ago.
The image Hoffman spotted in the Reds’ organization was future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. That meant, for Hoffman, a short stop at shortstop.
With Larkin clogging Hoffman’s path to the majors – Hoffman’s .210 batting average didn’t help – a switch was pitched.
“They wanted to know if I would be comfortable with a position change,” Hoffman said.
Patience? Hoffman’s father went against conventional wisdom, despite having a star player on his hands. Hoffman said he wasn’t allowed to climb a mound until he was a teenager, a great lesson for those thinking pitching year round at any age is the pathway to success.
Patience? Hoffman was a closer but he set up shop early at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park with his strenuous conditioning drills.
We recall a conversation with the late Tony Gwynn about his take on Hoffman.
“I can picture him with that doctor’s smock he used to wear when doing his running before games,” Gwynn said, his comment accompanied by a cackling laugh. “He worked hard and that’s why he had the career he had.”
But it was one Hoffman, like hitters tracking his pitches, didn’t see coming. Gwynn did, of course, and he squared up another one with this prediction.
“When he came over we were standing in the field one day and I told him, ‘These guys didn’t get you to be the set-up guy, you’re going to be the closer,”’ Gwynn said.
“When he first got here he threw hard, then hurt his arm and developed that change-up. As his velocity went down he really learned how to pitch and the rest is history. I loved the way he went about his business.”
Baseball has no business keeping Hoffman from its Hall of Fame. It’s an oversight which will be rectified next January, when Hoffman is expected to be granted entrance. That it will take 12 months to get here is troubling, although Hoffman would preach just one thing: patience.
+ Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.