Response floors Hoffman
He’ll have to decide where to hang the huge oil painting commissioned in honor of his 600th career save, where to put the ball from Tuesday night’s achievement and when to respond to the hundreds of calls and text messages he received.
Hoffman says he talked to commissioner Bud Selig on Wednesday morning and also spoke with Hall of Famer Robin Yount after finally getting to bed well past 3 a.m.
He was back at work for Milwaukee’s game against St. Louis, just with another memento for his collection. He says he has kept a baseball from at least 95 percent of his saves, only missing a few from his early days in the league.
“Last night as great as it was, but we’re hearing the same music as we have the last 160 days, it’s the same feeling at the ballpark,” he said. “It was unbelievable for the moment, but as we’ve all been a part of and seen and witnessed, it just moves on.”
Hoffman, who had his game cap sent to the Hall of Fame, says his phone stopped accepting voicemails from all the well wishers. He thanked the fans in San Diego, where he received a standing ovation after the accomplishment was shown on their scoreboard.
“As a player, you just don’t expect to be received that way,” he said. “They’re in the middle of a pennant race, their focus is staying ahead of the Giants. To take the time was a class move by the organization as well.”
It took a lot longer than expected, but it now says “600” on the big board in left-center in Miller Park. The 1,000 T-shirts commemorating the event sold out in about 20 minutes.
The club says another shipment will arrive before the weekend.
Hoffman said he spent some time thinking about what he’d say to the fans and the players, and used a line similar to Andre Dawson’s Hall of Fame induction speech, saying, “If you love the game, it’s going to love you back.”
“I had a couple of angles, I didn’t know how much I wanted to get in the bittersweet relationship—the sweet that I accomplished it and the bitter in the path that it took,” Hoffman said. “The journey might not have been the one that I foresaw, but one that can be looked upon as a good thing. It’s a better teaching tool than anything else.”
General manager Doug Melvin said he wished everyone had heard Hoffman’s speech to the club afterward.
“I wished all 160 of our minor league players could be there, but I said also I wished all young players in Major League Baseball could be in there, not just our players,” he said. “I’m big into Western movies, I felt like I was following John Wayne.”
Hoffman blew five of his first 10 save opportunities and lost his closer’s job to rookie John Axford. His numbers have been much better lately with a 2.63 ERA in his last 29 appearances.
“Ax was sitting at the corner of opportunity and success, and I got Wally Pipp-ed,” Hoffman joked. “We’ve dealt with this together.”
Axford has said he’s not the closer and Hoffman says the role is Axford’s.
“Trevor has been fantastic to me this entire time, he’s been a fantastic mentor,” said Axford, who has converted 20 of 22 saves. “I can understand and know what he’s gone through almost 700 times when he’s trying to close out games. Just knowing that emotional side, knowing how tough it is to close out a game, means even more.”
Hoffman’s second season in Milwaukee could be his last. Even if the right-hander who turns 43 next month wants to pitch, the Brewers must decide if they want to pick up his $7 million option or buy it out for $500,000, with Axford succeeding at a price that’s significantly lower.
“Offseason decisions can wait until the offseason, but I think everybody felt they were a part of something special with something like that, a milestone,” Melvin said. “I believe you never give up on somebody who has the character he does, you just don’t give up on them.”
Hoffman returned to the field, doing what he’s done since arriving in Milwaukee. He led the rest of the Brewers’ relievers in workouts with a smile on his face.
“He could’ve taken the day off,” Melvin quipped.