SAN DIEGO -- At some point during his 18-year Hall of Fame career, legendary Padres closer Trevor Hoffman must have realized he was charting a course for Cooperstown.When, exactly, did that notion creep into his mind? Well, Hoffman had the luxury of sharing a clubhouse for nine seasons with another
SAN DIEGO -- At some point during his 18-year Hall of Fame career, legendary Padres closer Trevor Hoffman must have realized he was charting a course for Cooperstown.
When, exactly, did that notion creep into his mind? Well, Hoffman had the luxury of sharing a clubhouse for nine seasons with another Hall of Famer, the late Tony Gwynn. And when Cooperstown chatter began to engulf Gwynn, Hoffman says he realized he might be on the verge of something special as well.
Gwynn, a 2007 inductee, and Hoffman are two of the most beloved Padres of all time. Come July, they'll share a place in baseball's most storied ground. After Hoffman was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, he was quick to tip his cap to Gwynn, a former teammate who lost his battle with cancer in 2014.
"Standing here, I think of some of the things Tony was thinking about when he was here, being inducted and getting a chance to talk about it," Hoffman said. "I wish he was here today to share this moment."
• 2018 Hall election results | Did You Know? | Coverage
Gwynn and Hoffman took different routes to Cooperstown. Gwynn, one of the best hitters in the history of the sport, cruised to induction in his first try. Hoffman, one of the best closers in the history of the sport, was elected on the third try.
But their careers will forever be linked, given their impact on the Padres and the city of San Diego. At his election news conference Wednesday, Hoffman was asked when he began to ponder the Hall as a possibility for himself.
"Really, when things started heating up with Tony, with his career starting to wind down, and the numbers he was putting together," Hoffman said. "Seeing him handle that scrutiny and that microscope he was under and, really, what it took for him at that level.
"And then ultimately I realized that I had built up some time in my role. I'm not sure what that particular [Hall of Fame] ticket was going to look like. I think I let myself dream then, a little bit, thinking maybe something down the road might come your way. But if you start looking down the road, that's when this game will trip you up. It'll humble you really fast. It was for a brief minute, and then it was back to going to stadiums, getting ready for another night's work."
Hoffman built himself a rather impressive resume, racking up 601 saves, a 2.87 ERA and a 25.8 percent strikeout rate throughout his career.
Of course, the majority of that career was spent with the Padres -- 16 seasons, to be precise. Gwynn played no small part in Hoffman's decision to remain in San Diego for so long.
"I remember sitting with Tony in the early '90s," Hoffman told MLB.com. "I remember him talking with us about having the opportunity to sign long-term in San Diego, making this our home. He said, 'It's hard to describe, but you won't be disappointed.'
"I took that really to heart. A guy that has been through it, was in the middle of a 20-year career here in this city, to hear him speak on behalf of how great the community is, how much they appreciate you when you work hard. It's been nothing but that. I walk around town, and people couldn't be more complimentary, more supportive."
Come July 29, San Diego fans will bring that support across the country to Hoffman's induction ceremony. Gwynn's presence will undoubtedly be felt that day.
"I've always put Tony at a pretty high level," Hoffman said. "To ultimately have shared a locker room with him and then be going to a pretty special place [in Cooperstown] will be a tremendous honor."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.