PEORIA, ARIZ. >> It's good being Trevor Hoffman these days.
The former closer got an encouraging 67.3 percent of the vote in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Every morning he buttons up his No. 51 jersey and spends several hours as a spring training instructor for the San Diego Padres, working with veterans and minor leaguers alike. He'll head back to San Diego for the start of the prep season so he can watch sons Quinn, a senior shortstop who's been accepted to play at Harvard, and Wyatt, a junior second baseman, play for Cathedral Catholic High.
There's a lot going on.
"It's a lot of good hats, though," Hoffman said.
"I love being back on the field, in uniform, around the youth and trying to empower and have input on things I feel can help impact a kid or a veterans' career in little nuggets they might be able to grab ahold of," Hoffman said.
Players can't help but learn something from a guy who had 552 of his 601 career saves with the Padres. He earned his spot among baseball's best with a wicked changeup, high leg kick and menacing glare after jogging to the mound accompanied by the brooding riff of AC/DC's "Hells Bells."
Hoffman takes his job seriously, and it doesn't hurt that players are learning from a guy on the Hall of Fame ballot.
"I think you walk in with credibility out of the chute, but I think in my shoes, you better come with some information because it's about these guys wanting to get to the highest level," he said. "You tell them, 'You know what, you have to blow a bubble when you're throwing a pitch' — that's not helping anybody. You better have some substance."
Starter James Shields, a fellow SoCal dude who is a neighbor of Hoffman's in Rancho Santa Fe, said it's special having him in camp.
"I've been in this game a long time and every year you hang around guys who are Hall of Famers and a guy like Trevor, who's going to be a Hall of Famer, next year, if not the year after that," Shields said. "To be able to pick his brain, I mean, the knowledge he has, the experience, and just a downright good guy. He's got a good attitude. He brings it every day. The guy's not even playing anymore and he brings it more than some of our players. He's pretty passionate about what he does.
"It's kind of funny, you see him on the field and it's almost like he's back playing again. He's got a legacy in this game and he definitely takes pride in it."
Hoffman is the NL career saves leader and is second overall behind Mariano Rivera.
He made a strong showing in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, a sure sign that he should be enshrined soon.
"I was surprised with the number," said Hoffman, who serves as a special adviser to general manager A.J. Preller and whose brother, Glenn, is the Padres' long-time third base coach. "No disappointment whatsoever. I had no idea what the number was going to be. It's a role, much like a DH, where there's nothing defined. There's not a magic number that is admission. I really didn't know how people felt about my career in a sense, and where that role stood in their minds, so to be able to be above 65 percent is pretty amazing."
A candidate needs 75 percent to get a plaque in Cooperstown.
Hoffman has no idea what to expect on the next ballot.
"That's the whole thing. I assume it's going to continue to progress for a player in a positive way. It's certainly a great start. Partly you look at how some of the voting process has changed. I don't know how quickly you will cultivate more votes, put it that way."
Doe he believes he deserves a spot in Cooperstown?
"Yes," he said.
Rookie manager Andy Green appreciates having Hoffman in camp.
"Trevor's off the charts in like so many different ways," Green said Monday. "He's got obviously a real strong knowledge of this organization and the history; he's a huge part of the history of it. But he's also a guy who's not even here because of who he is. He's here for what he can give. I had him speak to the minicamp guys and as soon as I listened to him speak I almost wanted to get up and run through a wall. Off the charts speaking to guys with passion and energy, a good message."
So good that Green's asked Hoffman to address the whole team.