The problem with “next year” in the minor leagues is that it does not always extend to certain players there.
Hoffpauir shouldn’t have to worry about that for now.
The left-handed hitting first baseman batted .319 and clubbed 16 home runs and 24 doubles while driving in 73 runs in 82 games with Triple-A Iowa this season. He missed the final two months of the season after sustaining an injury to his left knee on July 2.
The 27-year-old Hoffpauir underwent surgery on July 13 and recently returned to Mesa, Ariz., to continue his rehab.
“I was on second base, (Geovany) Soto was hitting, and he hit a ball into the gap. I was coming around third base and to me it was more of a freak thing than anything because I wasn’t running hard. I was going to score easily and it just happened that I ended up feeling something pop as I rounded third,” Hoffpauir recalled.
The official diagnosis that Hoffpauir received from Team Orthopedist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo was that he tore his articular cartilage.
Hoffpauir said his rehab will last roughly 16 weeks from the date of surgery. Since he had the operation performed in mid-July, he is roughly seven and a half weeks into his rehab.
“They did the surgery on Friday the 13th,” Hoffpauir said. “I walked into the hospital and Dr. Gryzlo came in and jokingly grabbed the wrong leg. He said he was just giving me a hard time.”
Hoffpauir taking his cuts in Spring Training.
(InsideTheIvy.com Photo/Pam Davis)
The injury couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time as Hoffpauir was one of Iowa’s best hitters at the date of his injury.
A solid fixture in the Cubs’ farm system since being selected in the 13th round of the 2002 draft from Lamar University, Hoffpauir had been enjoying arguably his finest season to date.
Finally getting his chance to perform on a big league stage – Hoffpauir was invited to Big League Spring Training this past February at the last minute – in September, if not sooner, seemed like a foregone conclusion.
“With all the changes we’ve had, this might have been his time,” said Iowa manager Buddy Bailey. “I’m sure by now he would have gotten a chance to be on the 40-man roster and gotten called up to Chicago. But it’s one of those things you can’t control.”
It’s only natural that Hoffpauir has pondered what might have been if he had stayed healthy and finished out the season.
“I can’t sit here and lie and tell you that I haven’t thought about it,” Hoffpauir said. “You look back on the season I had and you can’t help but wonder. It’s something that I’m going to have to learn how to deal with and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.
“All I can do is do my best to get back in shape for next season and see what happens,” he said.
His manager at Iowa didn’t need to be told what a tough hit his lineup took when Hoffpauir went down.
A large part of the RBIs that Soto (the eventual Pacific Coast League MVP) was getting in the second half of the season were ones that Hoffpauir was getting earlier in the year, Bailey noted.
“At the time (of the injury), he was our Most Valuable Player,” Bailey said of Hoffpauir. “He was hitting in the middle of the lineup and he really made our inner-diamond defense good because there were very few balls that ever hit the dirt and got by him. We used a lot of different people at first base that did OK, but they’re still not the same kind of defensive first baseman that he is.
“Hoffy helped a lot of our infielders early in the year by saving errors and getting their confidence to where they played better than maybe they’re used to playing,” Bailey said.
All Hoffpauir knows is that he’s been playing baseball for a long time, and he can’t ever imagine a life outside of it.
The game of baseball is his.
“I really don’t see anything else in the world right now that I could be doing,” said Hoffpauir.