SAN DIEGO -- The man responsible for finding and signing Trevor Hoffman expressed concerns early on that the then-University of Arizona shortstop wouldn't be able to stick at the position long term. "Before the Draft, I asked if he had played another position," said Jeff Barton, who was 24 years old and in his first year as an area scout with the Reds in 1989. "We talked about catching, because his arm was so good, as well as getting on the mound. At the time, anything Trevor could do to further his career, he was willing to do." The Reds selected Hoffman in the 11th-round of the 1989 Draft and allowed him to play shortstop for two seasons. He hit .249 and .212 before the club asked him to convert to pitcher.
"I was comfortable with that decision. When you know in your heart that is the direction you want to go, you don't look back," Hoffman said during his retirement ceremony at PETCO Park on Wednesday. "At that time, moving to the pitchers' mound was important to me." The rest, as they say, is history. Hoffman went on to a Major League-record 601 saves in an 18-year career that came to a close on Tuesday when Hoffman announced his retirement. Barton, now a cross-checker with the Reds, actually had history with Hoffman before 1989. Barton was a student-coach at Arizona State, where he saw Hoffman, who was playing for Pac-10 rival Arizona.
What did Barton first notice about Hoffman? That was easy: the arm."From a scouting end, his arm was exceptional. I had been around the game but I hadn't seen an arm like that. It was an 80 on our scouting scale," Barton said. "When you have one tool that is that far beyond average, you have to show some interest." On the professional 20-80 scouting scale, 50 is considered average and 60 is considered above average. An 80 doesn't come around often. But when Hoffman's other tools and his performance at the plate didn't measure up the first two years of his professional career, a move was made to maximize his arm. "You don't release or let go an arm like that," Barton said, admitting that the decision to move Hoffman to the mound wasn't a surprise. "He took to it really quickly. From when he was a position player, he knew how to get guys out. He was throwing 96, 97 miles per hour and just throwing it by guys." Hoffman was a full-time pitcher beginning in 1991. Two years later, and after he had been selected by the Marlins in the expansion draft, he was in the Major Leagues. Hoffman was traded to the Padres in 1993, where he started his march toward history. But never did Barton think Hoffman would end up with 601 saves and a likely spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "If you would have told me he'd be headed to the Hall of Fame, I would have said, 'No way.' I don't think anyone could have said that," Barton said.