Hoffpauir signs deal with Cards

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

AUGUSTA, N.J. &8212; Jarrett Hoffpauir woke up in his hotel room Thurday morning and had to think of actually where he was.

Welcome to minor league baseball.

The former Vidalia and Southern Miss standout woke up for the first time a pro baseball player on his first assignment after he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals last Tuesday night.

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He flew out late Wednesday to his assignment in Augusta, N.J., as a member of the New Jersey Cardinals of the New York-Penn League.

&8220;They offered me kind of what I was looking for,&8221; said Hoffpauir, who declined to disclose the details of the contract. &8220;It was kind of in the range of what I was looking for. They threw a number out there, and we jumped on it.&8221;

The two sides came to agreement a little over a week after the Cardinals made the hot-hitting second baseman in the sixth round of the MLB amateur draft June 7.

Of the five Golden Eagles taken in last week&8217;s draft, Hoffpauir was the last one to sign a contract.

Now it&8217;s the start of a whole new game as Hoffpauir, who collected postseason awards by the bucketloads this spring, enters the pro ranks after his junior season in Hattiesburg.

&8220;We play tomorrow,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;We practice today, and I&8217;ll go out there, work hard and see what happens tomorrow. We&8217;ve got some games ahead of us.&8221;

Yet, there&8217;s comfort to be found in his first assignment some 1,300 miles away. He&8217;s still rooming with longtime USM teammate Matt Shepherd, and the two will suit up with former Golden Eagle teammate Austin Tubb.

&8220;I&8217;m rooming with Shep,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;We got to room together just like old college days. Me and him talked about that last night &8212; it&8217;s pretty neat coming here knowing you don&8217;t have to worry about anything and can go through the whole process with you know.&8221;

Hoffpauir enters the high-Class A team the Cardinals say plays in a league of players like him &8212; college players just drafted or high school players who have put in a couple seasons in the lower ranks and are the same age.

He enters the league after one of the best seasons of anyone to play at Southern Miss, finishing with a .405 batting average with a school-record 109 hits, 11 home runs, a school-record 92 RBI and just eight strikeouts.

The season begins today at home for New Jersey in the 14-team league. The league&8217;s regular season ends Sept. 4.

&8220;It&8217;ll be a lot like college and Division I,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;Now it&8217;s just baseball every day &8212; baseball in the morning, and then you come home at night. You&8217;ve got to perform now. It&8217;s kind of like a job, and you have to work hard every day.&8221;