Hoffpauir getting used to new team

Published 12:08 am Saturday, March 20, 2010

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Spring is the season for renewal, and that’s exactly what Vidalia native Jarrett Hoffpauir is hoping this spring brings to his baseball career.

After spending the first five years of his professional career in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, including the last two at the Cardinals’ AAA affiliate in Memphis, Tenn., Hoffpauir enters spring training with a new team — the Toronto Blue Jays — and a new outlook on his career.

“I’m enjoying it,” Hoffpauir said of spring training with the Jays. “It’s a little more laid back over here with a lot of young guys. I feel comfortable. It’s fun.”

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Hoffpauir, who played second base in the Cardinals organization, was briefly called up to the Majors in the middle of last season, but never could establish himself in St. Louis thanks to an influx of middle infielders on the Cardinals roster.

The Cardinals released Hoffpauir following the 2009 season and he was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays on Nov. 3, 2009.

The Jays have Hoffpauir playing several different infield positions in spring training in the hopes he will become a utility infielder, which would increase his productivity.

“I’m playing a lot of third base right now,” Hoffpauir said. “It’s a little different for me, but I’m enjoying it. When I first came in, they told me I’d probably be playing everywhere, which is fine with me. Whatever I can do to make the team, or get a call up. I want to let them know I can play all three positions (second base, shortstop and third base).”

While Hoffpauir got bogged down in the Cardinals organization, he said he feels like he has a better chance to make the big leagues in Toronto.

“It’s kind of like a fresh start,” Hoffpauir said. “You get to create yourself all over again with no labels. I’m excited about the opportunity. I feel like I have a better chance here.”

One of the reasons Hoffpauir feels better about his current team is due to the value the Blue Jays place on their farm system.

“The Cardinals are a big market team,” Hoffpauir said. “They’ve been known to go buy some (players) instead of calling up their younger (players). The Blue Jays’ main focus is its own organization. Hopefully it will work out.”

Hoffpauir’s two weeks in the big leagues last year, which included a game-winning hit in the ninth inning in his first game, has increased his motivation to get back to the Majors for good.

“Once you get there, nobody wants to leave,” Hoffpauir said. “You do what you can to stay. It’s amazing up there, obviously. My goal is to get back. I probably put a little too much pressure on myself at times. Hopefully, I can relax and play well enough to open some eyes here.”

Hoffpauir has already been told by the Blue Jays that he will most likely start the season in AAA. But even that is an improvement from the Cardinals organization.

While St. Louis’ AAA team is in Memphis, Toronto’s AAA team is in Las Vegas.

“I spent enough time in Memphis,” Hoffpauir said. “It’s time to move on to a new city.”

And while the minor league life does get frustrating at times, Hoffpauir tries to think of those players who would love to be in his position, just one phone call away from the Major Leagues.

“I’m as close as I can get (to the Major Leagues),” Hoffpauir said. “I can’t really complain. I try not to take it for granted. People all over the world would love to play baseball for a living. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If not, I still enjoy putting on a uniform every day and getting to play baseball.”