Six months later, during Super Bowl XXVII, which the Bills lost to the Dallas Cowboys 52-17, Tracy saw Trevor walking down an aisle of the Rose Bowl toward the field, carrying a sign that read WILL YOU MARRY ME? She chuckled to herself, knowing they had postponed serious talk about that subject because Trevor didn't have enough money for a ring. Hoffman made it to the front row when a security guard stopped him. "But I'm going to ask that cheerleader to marry me," Hoffman said.
"Yeah, right," the guard said. "Where's the ring?" Hoffman produced a ring. He had emptied a long-forgotten bank account that he had built up with money he earned as a kid mowing lawns. The guard laughed and said, "Go right ahead, man."
Tracy still didn't think Trevor was serious—until he dropped to one knee, showed her the ring and asked her to marry him. The rest of the Jills, naturally, cheered.
Hoffman's father, Ed, had also gone to great lengths to find his wife. A former Marine, he became a professional singer who traveled the world. While on tour in England, he met Marguerite French, a ballerina, and they settled in Anaheim. One day, after coming home from yet another tour, Ed was greeted at the door by his firstborn son, Greg. The boy blurted out, "Mommy, who's that?" Ed never toured again. He took a job at an Anaheim post office and moonlighted as an usher at California Angels games, often bringing young Trevor to the ballpark with him. Ed soon became known as the Singing Usher.
"My father was the original closer," Hoffman says. "Once in a while the person who was supposed to sing the national anthem would get stuck in traffic or just couldn't make it. Dad was the guy who saved the day."
Hoffman's older brother Glenn, now a coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed as a shortstop with the Boston Red Sox in 1976. At 10, Trevor joined his brother at Triple A Pawtucket during summer vacation. "We had a name for him: Trouble," says Glenn, a .242 hitter over nine major league seasons. "He was into everything, running around, stealing candy from the clubhouse. He hasn't changed one bit."
Says Trevor, "Glenn was all-everything in high school [Savanna, in Anaheim]. It was very hard for me to follow him. I gave the same effort that he did, but I wasn't as talented. I felt pressure from that."
Nobody offered Trevor a scholarship out of Savanna. He grew three inches the summer after his graduation and continued growing at Cypress ( Calif.) College and then at Arizona, which made him sign a medical waiver before allowing him to play baseball. Trevor's left kidney had stopped functioning when he was six weeks old, prompting doctors to remove it and his parents to raise him with only two admonitions: no football, and drink as much water as possible. " Arizona made me promise if I got hit by a ball and died, they would not be responsible," says Hoffman, who as an infielder batted .321 in two seasons for the Wildcats. "I told them the one kidney I have is on my right side. That's not the side that faces the pitcher when I hit, so it was O.K. They bought it."
In 1989, following his senior season, the Cincinnati Reds drafted Hoffman in the 11th round. One year later, after Hoffman had hit .249 for Rookie League Billings and was on his way to a .212 mark at Class A Charleston, the Reds decided he could not make it to the big leagues as a shortstop. Charleston manager Jim Lett told him to try pitching, a move that is not unheard of in baseball. But Hoffman's success upon switching is the greatest the game has known since 1946, when the Cleveland Indians made a Hall of Fame pitcher out of outfielder Bob Lemon.
"You could see Trevor had arm strength," Lett says. "Once he got on the mound, he wasn't crude at all. The movements came fairly naturally."