Trevor Hoffman Interview: Part 1
MLB all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman recently stopped by the MLB Fan Cave and answered fans’ questions on Facebook. Trevor was also nice enough to answer some questions for us. In the first part of an extensive interview below, Trevor discusses the three most defining baseball moments of his career, Mariano Rivera’s pursuit of his saves record, and his current role in the Padres’ front office, among other topics.
MLB Fan Cave: Welcome to the MLB Fan Cave, Trevor. Thanks for spending some time with us this morning. What has retirement been like?
Hoffman: You know what? It’s been good. I think that not having that daily grind, and all the things that you had to go through on a daily basis to get yourself ready to pitch, is a nice change. I can kind of take a deep breath and relax, spending time with my family. And I’m comfortable with the decision not to be active but still excited about being a part of the game as an ambassador for the Padres. In that role, you’re still feeding the animal.
MLB Fan Cave: So, who was the toughest out during your career?
Hoffman: It’s the old cliché that they’re all tough when they step inside the batter’s box. It could be the guy who everybody knows about or the guy who’s a relative unknown, but you know they still have the opportunity to hurt you. But numbers-wise, one of the guys that hit me well was Todd Helton on the Rockies. He was a tough out for me to get.
MLB Fan Cave: Can you describe your current role in the Padres’ front office?
Hoffman: Yeah, I’m more of an ambassador. I was on the field during spring training interacting with the group that was in camp and have gone to a couple of cities in the minor leagues so far. I usually make it to one a game a series at home spend the game either in the clubhouse or up in the general manager’s box to sit. I also do a lot of stuff in the community, making a few appearances to some corporate groups, but it (the role) is still evolving. So I’m excited and happy about not having to do too much right now. I’m not getting overexposed, and I do really enjoy it.
MLB Fan Cave: So today is the MLB draft. Trevor, could you describe what draft day was like for you coming out of Arizona?
Hoffman: Yeah, I was just hoping for the opportunity. I was a senior coming out of the U of A and didn’t have a whole lot of leverage. I ended up being an 11th-round pick for the Cincinnati Reds, and was l lucky to get more than a bus ticket. I got a couple of thousands of dollars to go play ball and ended up at a different position than where I started. I think people need to keep that in mind when their careers start today. You want to keep your mind open and keep plugging away.
MLB Fan Cave: Do you think you could’ve made it as a position player?
Hoffman: No, but you don’t realize that until you get into it. Going from a situation where you gear up every weekend for a ballgame, or a midweek game in college, and you get to practice and all the hype is a completely different transition to playing every day. You have to deal with an 0-for-4 or a tough day in the field and come right back the next day and try to overcome that amount of failure. This game is based on failure, and in pro ball, as a hitter, it can be difficult to handle.
MLB Fan Cave: Speaking of failures, a lot of coaches must’ve obviously helped you out and taught you the tricks of the trade along the way. Do you ever see yourself going into coaching one day and is that something that would intrigue you?
Hoffman: You know what; we have two great coaches in place from the pitching standpoint in Bals (Darren Balsley) and Ak (Darrel Akerfelds). I’m kind of a sounding board if those guys want to come up and ask a couple of questions about a particular grip or philosophy of what I liked to do. Down the line, our pitching staff has done a great job from starting rotation on through the back end of the bullpen with Gregerson, Adams and Bell. They have been fantastic, so most of my direction was geared towards some of the younger guys and helping them out with routines and seeing maybe some pitfalls that I went through at their age.
MLB Fan Cave: What was your favorite place to pitch at other than Petco Park?
Hoffman: I like Safeco Field a lot. We always went up there in mid-June, with interleague play, and it was a big yard, which I think pitchers like. I thought it was a fair yard, the fans were pretty excited about their club, so there was good energy in the field, and there were always good places to go out and eat afterwards so. I think it’s always helpful to have success. I always felt like I pitched pretty decent up there so that helped. Pitching as long as I did you usually have bad memories of almost every park, so I was pretty lucky to escape there.
MLB Fan Cave: So your changeup was obviously your bread-and-butter pitch. How did you learn to develop that pitch over your career?
Hoffman: It was a pitch that was developed off of a straight circle changeup, which is fairly basic, and it evolved when a guy by the name of Don Elliot came over in the Fred McGriff trade in ’93. Don had a different grip, but it was close to what I was throwing it and helped me get kind of to the next stage, where it morphed into more of a palm ball. The stages that it went through allowed me to kind of develop it to the point that I was comfortable with towards the rest of my career.
MLB Fan Cave: In your first year out of baseball, do you ever find yourself at home cranking “Hell’s Bells” in the shower or anything and find that the adrenaline starts flowing?
Hoffman: Yeah, it’s kind of like Pavlov’s dog. Hearing it brings back memories. It’s a song that gets played in a lot of sporting events -- you’ll hear it at a football game, you’ll hear it at basketball events, you’ll hear it wherever. And so I am aware that if does come on and I’m in public, I’m rolling the windows up so nobody’s thinking I’m real corny listening to “Hell’s Bells” driving around town with it. That might be a little over the top. I like the song, though, and it definitely takes you back to moments in the game. But when it was played during a game, my head was down and I was concentrated on getting who I was going to face out.
MLB Fan Cave: Is there a story behind how you selected that song?
Hoffman: Actually, it came from the Padres’ in-game activities people. I didn’t have a particular song when I came up the first four years; it was just random, loud music they would play. And then a guy came down in 1998 and said, “Hey, ACDC has a pretty good song, ‘Hells Bells,’ and we think it would go over well.” It worked out pretty well for me. I don’t think you go up to anybody that’s been in San Diego over the last 20 years and hear that song play and not think of a Padres game, so it’s been good.
MLB Fan Cave: Do you remember the first game they played that song?
Hoffman: I do. It was earlier in the year and people didn’t really know what to do when the first chimes of the song came on. But again I think people have that mentality to go with it then everything kind of unleashes with Angus’ solo on the guitar, and it kind of rocked. I think I blew the next night’s save doing it, and I was in a dilemma. “Will I stick with this thing or is this affecting what I’m doing on the field?” But I figured the song is not going to dictate my performance, and the fans enjoyed it, so it was something that stuck.
MLB Fan Cave: Any thoughts about Mariano Rivera’s pursuit of your all-time saves record?
Hoffman: I’m just hoping he doesn’t break it before the All-Star break (laughs). He’s flying through it this year and having a great season. Nobody wants to be second, and I’d like to hold on to that record, but as well as he’s playing and as dominant as he’s been and still going at it strong, he’s going to catch and pass that number pretty quickly. So I will be in the masses of people that will be second behind Mo, and he’s not a bad guy to be second to. He’s a quality human being and he’s doing everything the right way. I respect the way he’s going about the game. And I even read the other day that when he got his 1000th career appearance, they asked him how he was going to celebrate, and he said, “I’m going to go to Mass.” So I think he’s got his stuff in the right place and is a good man. Just a class act.
MLB Fan Cave: What were the three defining moments in your major league career?
Hoffman: I think obviously my major league debut was a defining moment. You feel like you’ve made it to the pinnacle of your game. That happened in ’93 as a rookie in Florida. It took three days to make it happen. And I was the last guy to get used out of the pen, so there was a lot of time to wait. In that regard, I think that so many times failure is one of the things you remember in this game, so one of the defining moments was the blown save in Game 3 of the World Series against the Yankees in ’98. Because it just put things in perspective, in that not everything is going to go great. In a season of so many ups and so many highs and triumphs as a group, to not reach that milestone that you’re all searching for is difficult. I think that was a defining moment in that, regardless of what happens, you just have to prepare each day.
And then to be able to pass Lee Smith’s record in late-September against the Pirates was special. I happened to tie it and break it in back-to-back nights, a night and a day game, and it happened relatively quickly. It was done in front of the home crowd, done in late-September, and it helped our ball club make it into the postseason. I just felt like those three particular moments stand out to me.
Note: Be sure to check out part two of the MLB Fan Cave interview with all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, in which he gets into his philosophy on the art of long toss.