Hoffpauir has hot bat for minors team Rookie League fire

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2000

Josh Hoffpauir of Vidalia, La., couldn’t wait to take his first cut as a professional baseball player.

However, a different kind of cut delayed that moment.

Three days before the Scottsdale (Ariz.) A’s of the Rookie League season-opener, Hoffpauir stepped on a cactus and was forced to sit out last Friday’s opener and Sunday’s contest. Scottsdale was off Saturday.

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Hoffpauir was attending an Arizona Diamondback game earlier in the week and went to step over the cactus when he came down on it. The spine of the cactus went into his right middle toe under the cuticle and then caught the toe on the right.

&uot;I spent six hours in the hospital,&uot; he said. &uot;It was an inch-and-a-half long.&uot;

The injury has not slowed down Hoffpauir’s progress. The Southern Mississippi product is hitting close to .500, collecting 15 hits in 31 at-bats.

&uot;The biggest thing was adjusting to the wooden bat,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;You really have to concentrate more. With an aluminum bat you can get away with a bad swing. It’s kind of embarrassing when break a wooden bat.&uot;

Hoffpauir, who transferred to Southern Miss this year after three years at Northwestern (La,) State, signed a pro baseball contract with the Scottsdale team soon after the draft.

Hoffpauir said the different type of pitching has been to his advantage.

&uot;In college I saw a lot of off speed stuff,&uot; he said. &uot;In pro ball they come right at you. It’s a lot faster, but I’m a fastball hitter.&uot;

Hoffpauir has played five different positions, including one inning as a pitcher.

&uot;They have a pitcher count rule in this league and our pitchers got in trouble one game,&uot; he said. &uot;We ran out of pitchers in the ninth inning and the coach asked me if I could finish.&uot;

Hoffpauir pitched in high school when he helped lead Vidalia to a state championship in 1996.

Hoffpauir’s first pitch was hit over the wall.

&uot;I was thinking, ‘Oh no,’&uot; he said. &uot;I mean it was a monster shot. But I struck out the next two batters and got the next guy out. It was exciting. I never thought I would be pitching in pro ball.&uot;

Hoffpauir said he is also having to adjust to a 60-game schedule, which is actually considered a short season in the minors.

&uot;In pro ball you have to pace yourself more,&uot; he said. &uot;If you have a bad day it’s not like in college where you have three days before you play again. You have to come back the next day ready to go.&uot;

Hoffpauir, who has also had to adjust to wearing white shoes (an A’s trademark), has not had many bad days.

&uot;I’m just approaching each game the same way,&uot; he said. &uot;I just stay focused on what I have to do.&uot;

Hoffpauir said he doesn’t know what the future holds.

&uot;I don’t really know enough about it and haven’t really asked anybody,&uot; he said. &uot;Hopefully I can keep playing and move up to Class A before the summer is over.&uot;

He certainly has put up enough impressive numbers to turn the head of league personnel.

&uot;I couldn’t have asked for a better start,&uot; he said. &uot;I’ve played against some good competition, and hopefully that will continue to help me.&uot;

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at joey.martin@natchezdemocrat.com.