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An interview with former Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman

Pepsi Max and MLB approached BrewCrewBall to see if we wanted to do an interview with future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman. Of course we wanted to!

Dilip Vishwanat

Earlier this week, Kyle was contacted by the P.R. people for Pepsi Max about their Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Game. Trevor Hoffman is one former player who will be participating in the game. Given his time spent with the Brewers, they were wondering if we might want to do a quick interview with the former Milwaukee and San Diego closer. Our response: Of course we do!

Noah: Hi Trevor, thanks for taking the time to do this interview!

Trevor Hoffman: No problem, I'm happy to do it!

The folks at Pepsi Max wanted me to ask you one question about the legends game they are putting on. Could you tell me more about it and your involvement?

TH: You bet! It's a great thing. Saturday May 18 in Rochester, NY we put together a legends dream game that I get a chance to be a part of with guys like Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Fred McGriff, Mike Schmidt, Rickie Henderson, Frank Thomas, Pedro Martinez, Wade Boggs. A lot of guys that I was a fan of growing up. We're going to play at the Triple-A affiliate in Rochester's stadium. Two contestants won a contest to be able to be a part of that with us and we're going to be a part of a little legends game. If anyone has any more questions they can go to at pepsi max. Pepsi has done a great job at putting this game together, it's in their third year of this game and I'm excited about being a part of it.

When you first signed with the Brewers, how did you feel? Was it strange leaving a Padres franchise that you had been with for so long?

TH: Yeah, it was definitely a transition. I spent fifteen plus years in one city, fifteen plus years running around in one town telling a bunch of little kids "Hey, you gotta get your Padres gear on! Go Pads!" and suddenly shift gears and be in a different uniform, in a different city. It felt strange, a little hypocritical thinking back to all the little kids who I told to get their Padre gear on but I also understood this was a career path that I was taking, that the door closed in San Diego and I was very fortunate that a door opened in Milwaukee. It was a great fit, it was the right time in my career to make a transition to a ballclub that had a lot of great young talent that was on the cusp of doing some great things and was on the heels of a postseason appearance with CC. There was a lot of enthusiasm in Milwaukee and I was excited to be a part of that.

Did you have any friends on the team when you first came over that helped make the transition easier?

TH: Good question, I had a lot of respect for Prince and Ryan and a lot of those guys but there was not too many folks that I played with coming through their system.

When you first came in during spring training and spent time with the team, was there anything anyone in the organization did in particular that made you feel welcome?

TH: Oh yeah, everybody was really comfortable in making that transition go real smoothly. I had a chance to talk to the training staff, Roger Kaplinger at the time, and the assistants to pick their brains and say "Hey, this is what we do in our training room" and vice versa, for me to say "These were some of the things I've been doing". It allowed that comfort level that I knew was a big part of trying to stay on the field for me. It was all about trying to find that sense of familiarity. I could close my eyes and walk into the spring training site of the Padres because I've done it for so long and I would know exactly where to go and what to do and what was where and who was who. That was going to take a little time to get used to in Milwaukee, so I wanted to get there early and get situated. But it didn't take long. You're not reinventing the wheel. Things were run a little differently, but it's still the game of baseball, you're still getting ready for a season. Just with different personnel. I had no problems adapting or mixing in.

In retrospect are you glad you stayed that second year with the Brewers or does a little part of you wish you had gone out on the high note of an All-Star 2009 season?

TH: No, I don't think so. It didn't necessarily work out on paper, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to kind of take on a different role. And I mean that sincerely. Even though things didn't work out well, I'd lost my role to Ax, it was now a time to walk the walk. I had been talking the talk about what it meant to be a good teammate, how you go about business in this role. Now all of a sudden you have to walk it. No longer are you in that position, now you're being challenged. You lost your role, but you're still going to be a good teammate, you're going to be a soldier for the cause of winning ballgames. To have that platform to teach young guys, to feel like you're impacting their careers moving forward whether they're going to have tremendous careers from that point forward or whether they're going to have struggles, I felt like I had the opportunity to teach them firsthand what it meant to be a big leaguer in the bullpen and how to go about your business and be a good teammate.

Speaking of taking on more of a leadership role, have you given any thought to coming back to the MLB full time, say in the role of a pitching coach?

TH: As we speak I'm employed by the Padres as a special assistant, which really allows me to perform a number of things. Living in San Diego I'm entrenched in the community. We're involved with the children's hospital, so it helps me to give back in that regard. It allows me to get out to the minor league affiliates and work with some of the younger kids that need help with some of their routines a lot like I did in the bullpen in Milwaukee. I get to the ballgames here at PetCo and run up and see the team as they go. At times I get behind the mic and the camera. I'm not fulltime, not as heavily into it as Craig Counsell. I know he's there on a day-to-day basis. But I'm there enough to have an impact, to have some influence and a voice. But I'm also allowing myself to get to some high school baseball games that my boys are in and be around the house a little more.

If you were with the Brewers right now, what kind of advice would you give to a player like John Axford who has had well-documented struggles and lost his closers role?

TH: I actually did have a chance to talk to Ax when he came to San Diego. He's got his head screwed on right and it's just kind of frustrating to see him challenged, but his stuff is still there. It's about executing pitches and not overly looking at your mechanics to the point where you become paralyzed by it. I think he's in a good place with a great pitching coach in Rick Kranitz at the top. Lee Tunnell is the guy who basically resurrected his career and got him to the big leagues. It's just about executing pitches and putting yourself in the best position you can. Miller Park is a tough place to pitch. Really, CoCo Cordero is the only guy who has had any length of success in the past ten years in the closers role. It's not easy. You have continue to fight and understand you're an integral pitcher in that system. So often in Milwaukee--I know you all look at Harvey's Wallbangers--it's a hitters kind of organization. But when the team is run and run well it's been run on pitching. To have success, guys are going to have to have good performances on the mound. My advice to Ax is to keep grinding it out. You're stuff is good, stay positive and stay in your routine.

I know we're getting to your time limit, but I need to satisfy my curiosity on a couple things. You famously used "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC throughout most of your career. Was there ever a time where you considered changing your entrance music?

TH: (Laughs) You know, it came in about '98. It was a good season for me personally and for the Pads as well. We introduced it, I want to say about a month into the season. I showed up the first night and a guy comes down and says "Hey, I think this is a pretty cool song. You might want to come out to it." I said, sure, I hadn't really picked any particular song. It caught the fans off guard a bit. They seemed to enjoy the drama of it. We were in the same time frame as Major League with "Wild Thing" coming out, so it just kind of fit. But then the second game I came out to it I blew the save. So there was a little moment where I thought "Hey, maybe you don't want to be coming out to this, is the song the problem?" But there's no way a song is going to dictate what I do out there. It's a lot of fun, it fits what I was trying to accomplish from an entertainment standpoint so we stuck with it. It's funny because the song "Hell's Bells" and the whole thing is that it actually got bigger than myself.

Now be honest with this next one: Is there any disappointment that your all-time saves record didn't stand longer before Mariano Rivera broke it?

TH: Oh heck yeah! (Laughs) Nobody wants to be second. You know, I'm not looking for injuries from anybody, I was bummed that Mariano blew his knee out the year before. I'm glad he's back healthy and pitching well. I wish I could have pitched better longer and put a little pressure on him that way. But I certainly don't like being second. I certainly would have like to have held on to the saves title a little longer. But I have the utmost respect for Mariano, he's the greatest closer the game has ever seen. I don't have a hard time seeing that. I don't think it's a bad thing to be second to Mo. And he's a good guy on top of it.

Trevor, thanks again for taking the time out of your day to do this interview!

TH: No problem, I appreciate it! Go Crew!