08/06/2009 6:23 PM ET
Trevor Hoffman: Return to San Diego
All-time saves leader enjoyed trip to site of many moments
Our trip to San Diego last weekend was my first visit to PETCO Park since signing with the Brewers over the winter. It was awesome to go back. It was a great homecoming moment for me, but, at the same time, it was a business trip. We went in there to play some ball, and unfortunately we lost the series.
Heading into the series, I had given it a lot of thought. It also played out pretty much as I had envisioned. They didn't want to go over the top. I'm a visiting player, after all. But the club and the fans acknowledged my time there.
The fans were very receptive when I finally got to pitch in the final game. We were winning, 6-1, and when their hitter was down 0-2, I was getting a standing ovation. It was pretty touching. I wouldn't ordinarily have pitched in that (non-save) situation, and I wouldn't have gone in for the sake of going in. But having had a couple of days off heading into the series -- and then not pitching the first two games -- it made sense as it relates to my routine.
We had played San Diego during the spring, and we're playing them again next week in Milwaukee, but this meant more because it was in San Diego. At PETCO Park, you have your season-seat holders and your ushers, who, in fact, provided maybe the best moment I had.
It was spontaneous. I was sitting in the dugout and chatting with some of the reporters. Buddy Black came over, and I jumped out to say, hi. After I gave him a big hug and wished him well (he's recovering from shoulder surgery), I noticed in the stands that the ushers were having their pregame meeting.
The ushers have always been great to me and my mom, my wife and our kids. Looking up, I recognized a lot of faces. My dad was a former usher at Anaheim Stadium -- he was known as The Singing Usher -- so I have always had a connection with the ushers. I waved to them, and then they slowly started to applaud. Then, one stood up and then another. It was just something that touched me and that I didn't expect. It gets you a little.
It was also the first time I had pitched against the Padres since 1993. Back then, they also had Tony Gywnn in the lineup. I do remember that game because Fred McGriff hit a 2-2 pitch that was down and away -- I thought he would hit the ball to the bigger part of the ballpark -- and he took me deep with that buggy-whip of a hitting motion he had. He smoked it for a two-run homer and I can still see that swing in my mind.
We later turned out to be teammates, and that became one of the memories I have from old Qualcomm Stadium. We had a lot of fun, and the fans had a lot of fun with their tailgating. It was a sun-splashed type of crowd. Milwaukee reminds me of that a little, because the Brewers fans like to tailgate before games, too. I love that.
All in all, it was a great trip.
Future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, who has saved more games (579) than anyone in big league history, played for the Padres from 1993 through 2008. Now, in his first season with Milwaukee, Hoffman has continued his stellar work, saving 25 games in 27 opportunities while posting a 1.91 ERA in 34 games.