Hoffman living out baseball dream
Although Todd Hoffman now lives in Arizona and Washington instead of his native Westerville, his life has come full circle.
The 1976 Westerville High School graduate, who went on to become a baseball player and sports announcer at Otterbein and later a firefighter and paramedic in his hometown, is in his first season working in the Colorado Rockies organization as a minor league baseball clubhouse manager.
It all goes back to his childhood in Westerville, where Hoffman developed a love not only for sports but for sporting goods.
"While most people would go shopping for clothes, I would go look at the sports equipment," he said. "I just always liked sporting goods and equipment. I was always going to sporting events trying to figure out what teams were wearing and what they were doing with all of the different equipment."
Not that he had any notion back then he could make a career out of it.
Hoffman played baseball, basketball and football as a child, although the baseball field was where he found the most success.
"When I was a little boy, my parents signed me up to play basketball, football and baseball," he said. "But I wasn't any good at playing basketball and I was a pretty tender-hearted kid for football, so I just learned to enjoy baseball more. And over the course of time, I just enjoyed playing it and learning more about it"
Once he got to Otterbein, he tried out for the baseball team and made it even though "they never recruited me or asked me to join."
Although he didn't play much during his three years on the team, Hoffman said the real joy was being a part of the game he loves.
The journalism major also broadcast Otterbein football and basketball games on WOBN radio and WOCC television through his senior year, which also happened to be when Hoffman made a career decision that would take him away from sports.
He became a part-time firefighter with the Westerville Fire Department, surprising his parents and even himself with a decision he called "a bit of a step off track."
Although he initially saw it as a job that wouldn't last past college, within a few months the 1980 Otterbein graduate had the opportunity to take a promotional exam. He became a full-time firefighter and paramedic, a job he held until 2011.
Still, Hoffman never lost his love for sports -- especially sports equipment.
Before attending a Green Bay Packers game in fall 2002, Hoffman contacted the team's longtime equipment manager, Gordon "Red" Batty, and got a behind-the-scenes tour of Lambeau Field. The tour included the Packers' dressing room.
"I basically just sent him a blind voicemail. He did not even have any idea who I was," said Hoffman, who got a response from Batty four hours later.
Hoffman said he was fascinated with the methodical way Batty maintained the equipment and supplies for the Packers and thought one day he would give it a try.
When he and his wife, Lynda, moved to San Francisco and then El Paso, Texas, in summer 2012 for her job as a nurse executive, Hoffman saw his chance with the independent minor league baseball team the El Paso Diablos.
He was hired as visiting clubhouse manager.
"I tell people that I was hired because I could breathe and walk since I didn't have any experience," he said.
Earlier this year, Hoffman and his wife left El Paso for Phoenix, where Hoffman thought he might be able to catch on with one of the 15 Major League Baseball teams that hold spring training in the Cactus League.
With a recommendation from Diablos general manager Matt LaBranche, Hoffman was hired by the San Francisco Giants' minor league affiliate in Arizona. He then switched to the Rockies for a chance to be with the organization beyond spring training.
Through early June, Hoffman managed the clubhouse for Colorado's minor league complex.
He then moved to Pasco, Wash., to take on the same role for the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Rockies' Class A short-season affiliate in the Northwest League. The team plays a 78-game season running through Labor Day.
Hoffman is responsible for maintaining the clubhouse, managing the equipment and washing uniforms. Before each game, he and his assistant shop for and prepare pregame and postgame meals.
"During my early 20s it wasn't really something I thought I would have a legitimate opportunity to do back then," Hoffman said. "Then when I got older, I finally had an interest in it and I guess everything just kind of fell into place."
He credits Rockies equipment manager Jerry Bass for showing him the ropes.
"He has an incredible amount of experience," Hoffman said. "I have not seen a person work so hard during spring training."
Hoffman now splits his time between Pasco and Phoenix, where his wife lives.
"She has been so supportive to me through this, especially because of the time that we have had to spend apart," he said.
Lynda said she appreciates her husband's modesty and dedication to his job.
"I had a tree fall in the backyard and it would have been nice for him to be there to lift it up for me, but the neighbors took care of it," she said. "But that's all a part of what Todd does for a living."
Hoffman said he would welcome a chance to work in the major leagues, but he enjoys his current job.
"I am really thrilled to just have the opportunity that I do and then (I'll see) whatever comes up with the Rockies organization within the next few years."