"I had never faced him," Gwynn says. "I didn't watch any film. I had a memory log from all the times I'd seen Trevor do his thing."
On a 2--2 pitch Hoffman threw his signature changeup, its fastball disguise a mystery to so many hitters over the last 15 years. Kept it low, too.
The kid pulled it into the rightfield corner for a triple. Game tied. He made sure not to make eye contact with Hoffman as he stood on third. He did peek into the Padres' dugout. "You could see there was a big letdown," he says. "Guys moving off the top step, like they were thinking, Oh, my God."
The Padres lost in 11 innings, 4--3. They fell the next day too, 11--6. Then the day after that, 9--8. Three games. Leads in every one of them, two of them in the hands of the best closer they've ever had. Where do you go from there?
Home is a good place to start.
Maybe 1% of all ballplayers become Hall of Famers, and only a few of those players become civic icons. Ernie Banks in Chicago, Al Kaline in Detroit, Cal Ripken in Baltimore. Hoffman, a longtime resident of Rancho Sante Fe in San Diego County, belongs in that group.
A supporter of the National Kidney Foundation, Hoffman—who lost a kidney as an infant—meets "Kidney Kids" before every Saturday home game. The son and son-in-law of military servicemen, Hoffman regularly buys tickets for Marine families, many with a parent deployed overseas.
"Trevor is San Diego," says G.M. Kevin Towers. "He's our Tony Gwynn now."
Hoffman didn't venture out much after the loss to the Rockies. "But then," he says, "complete strangers were coming up to me and supporting me. I went to the grocery store, and people were going, 'I just wanted to tell you that you had a great year. Keep your head up.' It happened over and over.
"See, being in San Diego all these years and being a professional ballplayer, I've always been the one to get out there and encourage people to work hard and stay positive. And now for that to come back to me.... It was heartwarming. It blew me away."