He began with a tribute to San Diego and by quoting another Padres icon. He closed with words of wisdom.
From start to finish, it was vintage Trevor Hoffman.
The San Diego great, whose stature is such that next month he will have a 15-foot-high bronze statue erected at Petco Park, on Sunday was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hoffman, the first reliever to reach 500 and 600 saves, is only the 226th player to enter the Hall and the third to do so with his plaque depicting him in a Padres cap.
“Hello, Cooperstown,” Hoffman said, donning reading glasses as he took the lectern in front of family, friends, former teammates and about 53,000 others spread out across the grassy field between the Clark Sports Center and a hilltop forest. “I hope you’re enjoying a little bit of San Diego weather today.”
Hoffman’s briskly delivered 10-minute speech featured the usual thank-yous and two moments in which he briefly choked up while speaking of his brothers and his wife. It was also part motivational speech and very much a tribute to where he played the vast majority of his career.
“Allow me to drop an ‘Oh, Doctor’ on you,” Hoffman shouted near the outset.
He quickly explained: “You San Diego fans that made the long journey and those back at Petco Park, you get it — Jerry Coleman’s signature call.”
That prompted cheers from Padres fans in attendance, numbering a thousand or more and among the largest contingent of any fan base celebrating an inductee Sunday.
Former Atlanta Braves slugger Chipper Jones, the first inductee to speak, paid tribute with brief remarks about each of his fellow inductees. Jones demonstrated an understanding of Hoffman’s importance in the city where he played.
“I hated facing you, bro,” Jones said. “Hated it. You had the most devastating changeup I’ve ever seen in my life. You’ve been a great ambassador for the city of San Diego and the game of baseball.”
Hoffman was among six inductees — along with Alan Trammell, Vladimir Guerrero, Jones, Jack Morris and Jim Thome — who spoke Sunday, with 51 Hall of Famers sitting behind them.
It was the largest gathering of Hall of Famers and the second-largest crowd to witness an induction ceremony, after the 82,000 who attended the enshrinement of Padres great Tony Gwynn and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr. in 2007.
Hoffman compared the “butterflies” he felt Sunday to pitching in the World Series.
“It’s hard to describe what it looks like from that perspective,” he said. “You’re pretty much out there on an island.”
Hoffman was a small but strong-armed shortstop at Anaheim Savanna High who played at Cypress College and the University of Arizona. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as an infielder but converted to a pitcher in his second minor league season when it became clear Hoffman couldn’t hit well enough to reach the big leagues as a position player.
“When I graduated from Savanna High School I was 5-foot something, 100-and-nothing,” Hoffman said. “I headed to Cypress College where I got the opportunity to play for coach Scott Pickler and Bill Pinkham. Coach Pick helped me develop both emotionally and physically and taught me the fundamentals of the game.”