By Chris Stone
Trevor Hoffman used to sit in the Boston clubhouse as a child, watching the stars in his midst. That fueled the future Padres reliever’s passion for baseball.
He was in awe of players he had seen on TV.
“It was a pretty amazing sight for a 10-year-old boy,” he told about 75 fans at the San Diego Convention Center.
That awakened his love for baseball and “to one day reach for the stars,” he said.
Hoffman spoke at a 30-minute question and answer session on Kids Day at FanFest, which ushers in Tuesday’s 87th All-Star Game at Petco Park.
FanFest continues at the Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Monday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $35 for adults and $30 for seniors 65 and older and for children 11 and younger. Children under 2 are free.
In addition to Hoffman, Dave Winfield, Steve Garvey, Randy Jones, Kurt Bevacqua, Orlando Cepeda and Chris Gomez gave children playing tips and signed autographs for hundreds of people who stood in line.Future appearances include Fred Lynn, Dave Dravecky, Rollie Fingers, Luis Tiant, Mark Loretta and Steve Finley on Saturday; Heath Bell, Gaylord Perry, Andy Ashby, Damian Jackson and Greg Vaughn on Sunday; Wil Myers, Sterling Hitchcock, Benito Santiago, Tony Oliva, Andre Dawson and Bert Campaneris on Monday; and Ryan Klesko, Jesse Orosco, Kevin Mitchell and Terry Kennedy on Tuesday.
FanFest kids activities included sliding into home base, jumping for a line drive and batting practice. Others crowded autograph sessions and shopped at merchandise booths.
Saturday and Sunday are Military Appreciation days, Monday is Tribute Day with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and “Trending Tuesday” promises a social media theme.
Hoffman’s theme Friday was passion.
What a fun day on Day 1 of All-Star FanFest! And there's still Futures Game, Celebrity Softball, Home Run Derby and the ASG! See you there
— Trevor Hoffman (@THoffman51) July 9, 2016
Asked how youngsters can make it to the big leagues, he told parents: “If your child has the passion for something, whatever it is … then they’re going to be happy and give it their all.”
To the children, he said: “Someone is working just as hard as you, so you have to work harder” because of the competition.
Hoffman detailed the achievements of his own father and sons.
His father Ed Hoffman, who died in 1995, was a professional singer and occasionally performed the national anthem at Anaheim Stadium, now Angel Stadium of Anaheim.Trevor was at the game to try to catch some foul balls when he heard his father’s voice over the speakers.
“It was kind of cool,” he said.
Hoffman also spoke of how his dad, a Marine, watched over him in his early playing days.
His father steered him to an infield position to save his arm as he continued to grow.
Hoffman had a shaky start with the Cincinnati Reds, wondering about his place in the game of baseball. But he remembered the advice of his father and brother to “keep my head down and keep working.”
“You should never take your foot off of the gas pedal, never really feel like you’ve arrived,” he said, wearing a National League All-Star jersey. “If you do, that’s when the fame will mess you up.”
But it was when he started to talk of his own sons Friday that he momentarily got choked up.
Asked about his biggest moment in his life, Hoffman initially spoke about his debut with the Reds.
He verbally painted a picture of the day: white puffy clouds against a blue sky with blue seats in the stadium. He took the mound and struck out Eric Davis of the Los Angeles Dodgers and breathed a huge sigh of relief.Then he turned his attention to his sons, who play baseball at Cathedral Catholic High School: “Trumping that (major league debut) is getting to see my boys (Quinn and Wyatt) play in their championship game this past summer.”
“I’m a control freak; I like being in charge of things. But to have no control and sit there and watch your kids do what they like doing and having success trumps everything I ever did.”
Hoffman also spoke with emotion about the legendary teammate who couldn’t be there: “Mr. Padre” Tony Gwynn, who died of salivary gland cancer in 2014.
He spoke of “walking into the Murph for the first time, seeing “T.” Hoffman said he felt sorry for him because it was right after the “fire sale” in which Gwynn had to see so many fellow players go.
“For him to stand up and shake my hand and say ‘Welcome’ was pretty cool,” Hoffman said, adding that he saw Gwynn’s work effort in afternoon workouts, hearing his “pristine crack of the bat.”
Hoffman said of Gwynn: “I learned what it meant to be professional. I can’t say enough. I wish he was here. He’s sorely missed in San Diego.”
The legendary closer also talked about his movement to a change-up pitch after surgery, which kept batters guessing and gave him an alternative to his fastball.Taking questions, Hoffman said Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies hit well off him and 97 mph was his fastest pitch when he played in Chattanooga.
Recalling his signature “Hells Bells” intro by AC/DC played as he walked from the bullpen to the mound, the relief pitcher of Trevor Time said, “The first time at the Murph, my foot hits the grass and the bell goes off, and I almost fell over. It was so incredible.”
He hinted “Hells Bells” would be heard in the next few days. (He is slated to pitch in Sunday’s celebrity softball game.)
Finally, when asked about his career saves record and other achievements, Hoffman said, “Milestones are tremendous. But they pale in comparison to any team triumph that we had when I was on the hill to close out any series that we had, to win a division, knowing that you’d better be careful because the boys are coming, and you may get crushed.
“There was no better feeling.”
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