MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Great lengths: Hoffman honors British ties as coach

Great lengths: Hoffman honors British ties as coach

NEW YORK -- Trevor Hoffman popped out of the Great Britain dugout on Thursday wearing his familiar No. 51, but the digits were set on a sea of navy blue donned by the British during this World Baseball Classic qualifier at MCU Park.

Great Britain played the nightcap against Israel at the back end of a first-day doubleheader in the modified double-elimination bracket. Brazil thumped Pakistan in the early game.

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The winner goes to Seoul, Korea, next March 7 to open Pool B play against host South Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands.

Hoffman, the National League's all-time leader with 601 saves -- most of them for the Padres -- is Britain's bullpen coach this week to honor his mother, Mikki, who was born in England.

His grandfather, Jack Proctor French, played soccer for Southend United FC during the 1920s and early '30s.

"I don't know a lot about it," Hoffman told MLB.com, "but I know he was a professional footballer over there. I thought this would be a perfect way to honor my mom."

Hoffman grew up in Anaheim, Calif., and never lived in England. But the close ties to these relatives makes him eligible to either coach, manage or play on that national team.

His late father, Edward, was a tenor, and was in England after the second World War to act and sing in a play in which Mikki was a ballerina. That's how the romance was born.

"He courted her over time," Hoffman said. "He had to go back to the States. He stayed in contact and came back over and convinced her to go back with him to America."

The man who fell 34 votes short earlier this year of being elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot is the baby of three brothers. The oldest, Greg, is 14 years older than the nearly 49-year-old Hoffman, and is a teacher in their old school district. Glenn, a former Major League infielder, is finishing his 11th season as third-base coach for the Padres. He's nine years older than Trevor.

Their father, who died in 1995, late in his life was an usher at Angels games played in the old Anaheim Stadium, and on numerous occasions sang the national anthem. He was known as the singing usher.

"Whenever they'd get in a pinch, they'd put him in the lineup," Hoffman recalled. "It was great. Sometimes in Interstate 5 traffic, there'd be an accident and somebody would get stuck and they'd call him in for the pinch [hit]."

Mikki -- full name Margarete -- is 84 years old now, still living in Anaheim, and healthy, but she didn't make this trip. Neither did Hoffman's wife, Tracy, or his ballplaying sons Wyatt and Quinn.

"She's good," Hoffman said about his mom. "She thought about coming out, but I didn't know how things were going to work. And so to have her do things on her own wouldn't have been good. She'll be watching. She'll be watching to see how we do. She'll be excited.

"I'm excited. I think it's going to be great. Hopefully we qualify and get over to Korea next March."

The English team is replete with 13 players out of Major League-affiliated organizations, which impressed Hoffman.

"I'm learning this is a different team that competed over there for the European championships," Hoffman said. "This is a group of different guys for this tournament. More American guys, Panamanian guys, Bahamian guys. It should be interesting. Looks like we've got some talent. A lot of guys affiliated with MLB organizations."

The British have players from the D-backs, Marlins, Reds, Mets, Rangers and Angels, among other teams.

Their manager, Liam Carroll, has little baseball experience, but he's a dead ringer for Padres manager Andy Green and through San Diego contacts reached out to Hoffman, making a trip to California to meet with him. Carroll said he was suitably impressed.

"As long as I can remember, there were some rumors about Hoffman having some British connections," Carroll said. "When we got the call to be in this tournament, Trevor was one of the first calls we made. It was a no-brainer."

And that British connection? Certainly, it's no rumor.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.