A Hall of Famer in more ways than one

A Hall of Famer in more ways than one
Trevor Hoffman will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. The longtime Padres closer is second all-time with 601 saves. Courtesy photo

The Baseball Hall of Fame call came for Trevor Hoffman and now it seems like a good chunk of North County has a hall pass.

“Psst, you going to Cooperstown this weekend?”

If answering “yes” have fun, and if the response is “no” there’s always TV. Regardless of where one consumes Sunday’s ceremony in upstate New York, Hoffman will not only be representing the Padres by our slice of paradise as well.

Hoffman resides in Rancho Santa Fe and has a Del Mar beach home. But it’s the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown that have beckoned and won’t this weekend be grand for an organization that has little to toast.

Always the competitor, Hoffman was waging a silent battle with his scale. The game’s ultimate closer has yet to slam shut his suitcase.

“Clothes-wise, we are kind of taking it down to the final hour to see how much I can lose,” Hoffman said with a chuckle. “Make sure everything fits right.”

Hoffman was seldom out of place in the Majors, once he shed his dream of being a shortstop. He couldn’t transform his reputation of having a solid glove, live arm and a shaky bat and if not for that combination, maybe Cooperstown isn’t bathed in Padres colors.

Throngs of Friars faithful are making the trek and that includes the Padres’ third-base coach. Glenn Hoffman will be sprung from his duties to watch his little brother have his bust unveiled.

“It’s not paternity leave, but it’s some kind of, I don’t know, Hall of Fame leave,” the pitching Hoffman said.

Something often omitted in Hoffman’s stories are the tales away from the games he finished off for the Padres. Most know of him being the Majors’ all-time save leader with 601 when he retired after 16 seasons with the Padres in an 18-year career. His nasty changeup was tantalizing and effective as the breeze coming from Padres games was often batters swinging and missing after the right-hander hoodwinked another victim.

Hoffman’s incredible numbers will be repeated in New York. But what made Hoffman a Big Apple in my eyes was what he did off the field.

One can trace Hoffman’s humble ways to his parents. When Hoffman was growing up in Orange County, his folks were involved in Meals on Wheels. They pitched in at their local church. They made sure those without had something, and whatever and whenever they could deliver it, their smiles were part of the package, too.

Hoffman followed suit and for that his parents knew he was Hall of Famer long before Cooperstown beckoned. On six occasions, Hoffman was the Padres’ recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award for his contributions to the community.

“It was something that I felt like I got from my parents at an early age of giving back,” Hoffman said. “I just saw how important that is and how giving back kind of gives you some satisfaction that you’re doing some things right.”

Right or wrong, Kevin Towers would never watch a Hoffman save. The former Padres general manager would exit his box when the bullpen doors swung open. While everyone longed to hear Hoffman trot to the mound with “Hells Bells” blaring from the speakers, Towers would find a quiet clubhouse tunnel and hope for the best.

“It made me crack up and really smile when thinking of what K.T. might have been doing in those times,” Hoffman said. “I giggle at the fact that he didn’t watch and that fact that it became such a funny story afterward really is pretty cool.”

Towers, a Leucadia resident who passed away in January, and Ed Hoffman, Trevor’s late father, will be missed.

The elder Hoffman was a favorite of mine long before two of his three sons became major-leaguers when he was known as the “Singer Usher” at Angel Stadium.

He worked behind the plate and always with his trusty harmonica in his pocket. If the national anthem singer didn’t show, Hoffman, a professional musician, would grab the microphone.

He had a deep, almost operatic voice, but he was keen for another reason: he was an easy target for a kid (me) to slide past when heading for seats by the dugout.

Years later, in telling that tale to Hoffman, he let out a laugh.

“You do realize that he was letting you sneak past him, right?” Hoffman said.

Not really, just like hitters were shocked when Hoffman slipped a soft pitch past them to secure another Padres victory.

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him @jparis_sports.

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