Editor's note: This story first appeared Sunday as an exclusive for our print readers.
Trevor Hoffman sat in the bleachers at McKale Center late Friday afternoon, watching a video presentation of his days as an Arizona Wildcats shortstop.
That was 25 pounds, 22 years, 601 saves and seven All-Star Games ago. Now, four years away from his almost certain induction into baseball's Hall of Fame, Hoffman returned to Tucson to be inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Fame.
"What I learned here was how to play the game of life," said Hoffman, who was accompanied by his wife, Tracy, and two of his three children. "What I learned here under those three gentlemen - (former UA coaches) Jerry Kindall, Jim Wing and Jerry Stitt - prepared me for my future in a way I couldn't have imagined. I owe so much to them and to this school."
Hoffman's return to his alma mater was well-planned and genuine. The first MLB pitcher to save 600 games could have been inducted more than a decade earlier. He chose to wait until he retired to ensure he would not have a baseball-related conflict.
Hoffman, who was recruited to Arizona from Cypress College, remains close to his former UA teammates. In Tucson for the weekend celebration was a who's who of former UA baseball stars: six-time Gold Glove winner J.T. Snow, New York Yankees batting coach Kevin Long and All-Star pitcher Scott Erickson, who won a school-record 18 games for the 1989 Wildcats.
As a UA shortstop, Hoffman hit .371 in 1988, tops on a team that included catcher Alan Zinter, a future first-round draft pick.
"I learned about relationships at Arizona," said Hoffman. "I learned how important they are, not just when you are a teammate, but for life."
The ex-Wildcat baseball stars, now in their mid-40s, haven't outgrown their schoolboy haunts. They gathered to socialize at longtime campus favorite, Dirtbag's, before Hoffman's ceremony.
How's this for the value of college baseball the way it was played in the Jerry Kindall days: According to figures from baseball-reference.com, Snow, Erickson and Hoffman combined to earn $164 million in their playing careers.
Gin abandons retired life to coach Titans again
How's this for an encore: After retiring as Palo Verde High School's basketball coach in 2009, after 36 years in coaching locally, 60-year-old David Gin is back. He will coach the Titans again this year after Rick Gary resigned last week, a few days before practice began on Halloween afternoon. "I'm going to pull a Russ Pennell," said Gin, who won more than 250 games at Palo Verde and coached the Titans to the playoffs 12 times in 13 seasons from 1997 to 2009. Gin takes over a program with 38 total players. The first game is Nov 21. Ready or not, right? "I'm going to make this a positive experience," he said. "The kids deserve my best effort." … UA swimming coach Eric Hansen closes out his first recruiting season on Wednesday and it is a keeper. The Wildcats will sign Colorado's Bonnie Brandon, considered the No. 1 high school girls swimmer in America, and two more Top 50 girls swimmers: Emma Schoettmer from Indiana and Scottsdale's Letty Lelli. … Flowing Wells grad Christopher Ayer won't be sidelined by the NBA lockout. The 7-foot center is expected to be the starting center for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA D-League, which begins play Nov. 25 regardless of NBA labor issues. Ayer averaged 12 points and five rebounds for the D-League's Dakota Wizards last year. … UA softball coach Mike Candrea expects to sign his usual Top 10-type recruiting class Wednesday, a five-person group that includes elite Whittier, Calif., shortstop Mandie Perez. Candrea has also locked up perhaps two of the top five SoCal players in the Class of 2013 - infielder Mo Mercado, from Temecula, Calif., and pitcher Michelle Floyd of San Marino, Calif. These two classes should keep Arizona battling for a national title through 2017.
Ex-Caballero Erdmann a cross country favorite
Tucsonan Tara Erdmann is one of the favorites to win the NCAA West regional cross country championships Saturday at Stanford. A week ago, the Flowing Wells grad, now a senior at Loyola Marymount, became the first person in West Coast Conference history to win the league cross country title three times. Her top competition in the NCAA meet could be Arizona junior Jen Bergman. … Tucson businessman, rugby coach and TV sportscaster Dave Sitton had a very good week. He learned that he won his second sports Emmy for the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was honored for his play-by-play call of Arizona's 10-9 victory over Cal in the 2010 football season. What's more, he learned that his daughter, Blake Sitton, a first baseman at College of Charleston, will be coming home in the spring. The Cougars will play Mike Candrea's UA softball team in a three-game series at Hillenbrand Stadium March 2-4. … In addition, Sitton's star player on his UA club rugby team, senior Peter Tiberio, helped Team USA to the bronze medal at the Pan American Games. Tiberio, who is to graduate from the UA with a political science degree in December, is considered a strong possibility for the USA's 2016 Olympic team; Tiberio has already been on USA teams that played in Kenya, China, England, Canada and Australia. … Good to see that Sabino grad Tim Wood signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This year, Wood was released by Washington, signed with Pittsburgh, traded by Pittsburgh to Texas and granted free agency by the Rangers. Wood had 23 saves for Class AAA Indianapolis this season. He broke into the big leagues with the Florida Marlins in 2009.
More Short Stuff
UA soccer coach's dismal season one of Cats' worst
Second-year UA women's soccer coach Lisa Oyen completed perhaps the most difficult season in modern UA sports history Friday, losing to ASU 2-1. The Wildcats were 1-16-2, scoring eight goals all season and getting shut out in 13 games. Those lopsided figures put it in a category with Ben Lindsey's 4-24 men's basketball team of 1982-83 and with June Olkowski's women's basketball team of 1990-91 that went 1-17 in the Pac-10 and 6-25 overall. The previous low standard for UA women's soccer was Cathy Klein's 3-15-2 club of 2000. ... Three players from Tucson's excellent high school basketball class of 2009-10 have become starters in Division I hoops: Maryland's Terrell Stoglin of Santa Rita scored a team-high 23 points in an exhibition opener Friday night; Pueblo's Michael Perez, at UTEP, had 11 points for the Miners in Thursday's exhibition loss to Eastern New Mexico; and Palo Verde's Bryce Cotton led Providence with 16 points in last week's exhibition win over Assumption. All are sophomores. … Now a 7-foot junior at Kansas, former UA basketball team member Jeff Withey might be on the brink of a break-out season. In KU's exhibition opener against Pittsburg State, Withey had a triple-double: 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks. Withey is the latest in a long line of UA-sought players who became part of the KU juggernaut. Arizona strongly recruited ex-Kansas and NBA players Julian Wright, Mario Chalmers, Aaron Miles and Darrell Arthur as well as 2011 NBA draft pick Josh Selby. So it was a significant triumph last week when the Wildcats landed 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, beating the Jayhawks, striking back at last.
My Two Cents
With 6 weeks till Pac-12, Arizona has plenty to do
The clearest indication of Arizona's starting point, Year 3 of the Sean Miller reign, wasn't a home loss to Seattle Pacific. It was probably that Seattle Pacific was crushed 77-60 Friday night at Washington.
The deep and athletic Huskies have three or four scorers that Arizona can't yet match. How Miller develops the Wildcats over the next six weeks will determine if Arizona can enter the Pac-12 season with a realistic chance to hang with Washington, UCLA and Cal.
It was encouraging to hear Miller's reaction after last week's exhibition struggle against Humboldt State. He got to the heart of the issue when he said, emphatically:
"I'm not so sure that playing 10 guys is the answer. I'll give you one example: Nick Johnson. I love the way Nick's playing the game, but there's only so much you can do through 14 practices and two of these games. But I know this: Giving Nick a bigger role is going to help our team. Letting Angelo Chol play some (center) is going to help our team.
"Maybe not playing one player who's playing now - at all - gives those guys a bigger role."
I would also expect to see Miller put his money on a smaller rotation that gives freshman point guard Josiah Turner expanded minutes and more direction to take charge.
Without Johnson, Turner and Chol turning into productive players, this UA team will essentially be killing time until next year's No. 1 recruiting class arrives.