Friday night brought history to Hi Corbett Field.
Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman had his No. 15 retired before a crowd of 3,431 fans. He is the fifth former Wildcat to have his number retired, a list that includes Terry Francona.
“I was in awe,” Hoffman said when he learned of his jersey retirement. “There have been some tremendous players here who put up numbers more significant than myself. I know some of this has to do with what I did at the big-league level, but I hope I can represent some of the guys with tremendous careers here.”
It’s been 30 years since Hoffman’s final season at Arizona, where he played shortstop in 1988-89. He led the team in hitting both seasons, his .371 average in 1989 a whopping 35 points higher than any other Arizona player. The all-conference standout also had nine home runs and 24 doubles that season and racked up 83 RBI in his two years in Tucson.
After a season and half of minor league baseball Hoffman had three homers and 43 RBI and was hitting just .227, prompting the Reds to convert him into a pitcher before the 1991 season.
There, Hoffman posted a 1.89 era in 41 games, all out of the bullpen. He finished 38 of the games in which he pitched with 20 saves. The following season Hoffman tried his hand at starting, posting a 3.42 ERA in 11 starts.
In 1993, after being traded to the then Florida Marlins, Hoffman got his chance at the pros, where he recorded two saves in 28 games before being traded to the San Diego Padres. It was there that he made his name as the second most-prolific closer of all time.
Hoffman cited the shift to pitching as an example of how baseball is “a game of adjustments,” but that other factors are important in order to have success.
“Whether you want it or not, you’ve got to have some luck along the way, and stay healthy,” he said.
He finished his career with 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera’s 652, leading MLB in saves twice. His career ERA was 2.87 and he won 61 games.
Currently, Hoffman holds a position in the front office of the Padres organization. He can be seen regularly around Petco Park in San Diego but he also has relationships with players and observes the Padres’ minor league affiliates.
Hoffman spent time before Friday’s game in Arizona’s clubhouse at Hi Corbett, chatting up current Wildcat players. Coach Jay Johnson said that experience is something his team can only benefit from.
“It’s one of those things that they will remember for the rest of their life,” Johnson said. “It’s not really about even the icon that he is, it’s the message. I wanted our players to hear about his preparation. We’ll be a better team from getting to hear him talk today.”
Friday night was a night of recognition, reminiscences and celebration of one of the game’s best. It was an opportunity for fans and the school to acknowledge Hoffman’s greatness. Though he may not have been a pitcher here his impact was still great and will always be remembered.