In 2018 San Diego sports got to celebrate Trevor Hoffman!
And that’s pretty much it.
As depressing as the San Diego sports scene can seem it’s not always doom and gloom and “wait ‘til next year or the year after or of well at least we have craft beer.”
There are good things that happen in San Diego’s sports scene.
Let’s go month-by-month and take a look back at 2018 with a positive spin … meaning we’re leaving out the Kellen Winslow II case, bugs in Padres hat giveaways, and the SDSU basketball program showing up in an FBI investigation due to alleged improper benefits paid to Malik Pope. Not to ignore things that are real stories … I just need a break from the bad.
We’re gonna do this with an “H” theme. For each month we’ll give you the Highlight … the Hoffy Moment … and the Honorable Mention.
Highlight: Jason Day won a marathon at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
J-Day and Alex Noren knocked Ryan Palmer out of a 3-man playoff after one hole to set up one of the most enthralling finishes of the year on the PGA Tour that did not involve Tiger Woods.
Over the next four playoff holes Day and Noren matched each other. They both sank birdie putts on the 18th hole in near total darkness so, after 77 holes, they had to come back on Monday to finish things up where Day won on the first hole of the day. It was the longest playoff in Torrey Pines history and one heck of a thrill for San Diego golf fans.
Hoffy Moment: The “Year of the Closer” started.
Finally, in his third year of eligibility, Trevor Hoffman was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Hoffy is, like Tony Gwynn, a guy who did not grow up in San Diego but made it his home. He’s become a cherished member of the Padres and America’s Finest City and seeing him finally earn the recognition he deserves as one of the best baseball players of all time gave us all something to smile about.
Honorable Mention: January is also the month that the long election battle between Soccer City and SDSU West really got going. I have no idea if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but it definitely was a thing.
Highlight: The Birth of Hot Talent Lava.
The Padres reported to Spring Training and shortly thereafter signed 1st baseman Eric Hosmer to the largest contract in franchise history. But even better than that; in the introductory press conference superagent Scott Boras gave us the phrase “Hot Talent Lava.” That might be the single greatest moment of the entire San Diego sports year.
Hoffy Moment: Trevor helps at Spring Training.
Hoffman has always been willing to guide young players, even showing them how to throw his vaunted changeup. This year he helped prospect Reggie Lawson better learn the change and once he got it down Lawson’s young pro career took off. He was an All-Star with Single-A Lake Elsinore and landed on the Padres Top-30 Prospects list, not an insignificant accomplishment given the depth of the system. A lot of elite players don’t take the time to help kids. Hoffman goes out of his way to do so.
Honorable Mention: In the Super Bowl, although he didn’t play due to an injury, former San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey won himself a championship ring as a member of the world champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Highlight: College hoops programs make post-season runs.
The Aztecs men’s basketball team got hot late and won the Mountain West Conference Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament while the Toreros men, despite the tumult and departure of former head coach Lamont Smith, won a few games in the CIT to reach 20 wins and secure the permanent job for Sam Scholl, a move that seems to have paid off with a strong start to the 2018-19 season. Both the U.C. San Diego men’s and women’s programs advanced to the Division II NCAA Tournament, as well.
Hoffy Moment: Opening Day at Petco Park!
The Padres opened the 2018 season against the Brewers and Trevor Hoffman threw out the ceremonial first pitch in front of a sellout crowd at Petco Park. The Brewers ended up sweeping the series but hey, we got to see Hoffy on the mound again!
Also of note, rookie Joey Lucchesi made his Major League debut to start a solid rookie season. Of course, he made that start because Dinelson Lamet needed Tommy John surgery, but it was nice to see one of the prospects play well.
Honorable Mention: San Diego State’s baseball team got off to a nice start and found itself in the Top-25 for the first time since Stephen Strasburg was becoming the #1 overall pick in the draft in 2009. Also Phil Mickelson won the WGC-Mexico Championship, his first PGA Tour win since 2013.
APRIL (This Month Was Boring)
Highlight: A Penny for your Hawks
Aztecs All-American running back Rashaad Penny was not expected to be a first-round pick. The Seahawks didn’t want to risk him not being there for the second round. Penny went to Seattle with the 27th overall selection, the first time an SDSU product went in the 1st round since offensive lineman Kyle Turley was taken 7th overall by the Saints in 1998.
Hoffman Moment: Hoffy got to take a tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. That was cool.
Honorable Mention: The San Diego Seals named Patrick Merrill as their first head coach and Murrieta native Rickie Fowler finished in 2nd place, one shot back of Patrick Reed at The Masters.
Highlight: We have a winner!
The Padres figured things out for at least a little while and went 15-13 in the month of May. It was the only month of the entire season in which they had a winning record.
Hoffman Moment: We’re gonna party like it’s 1998!
Trevor Hoffman and the 1998 Padres World Series team were honored at Petco Park so we all got new bobbleheads of Hoffy, Greg Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, and of course Tony Gwynn. Most of the guys from that team made it back for a celebration and it was nice to see the band back together again.
Honorable Mention: The Alliance of American Football officially announced San Diego was getting a new franchise, giving America’s Finest City an outdoor professional football team again.
Highlight: S.D. Legion makes strong debut
The Legion played their inaugural season of Major League Rugby and did pretty darn well. In June they made it all the way to the playoff semi-finals before losing to the eventual champion Seattle Seawolves. Legion games were played in front of healthy crowds at Torero Stadium, proving San Diego is capable of supporting all kinds of different sports because of our diversity.
Hoffman Moment: Trevor Hoffman 500th save bobbleheads were handed out at Petco Park! I have no information about this but I would assume it’s the first time in MLB history one guy was the subject of two separate bobblehead giveaways in consecutive months.
Honorable Mention: The Padres selected LHP Ryan Weathers in the first round of the MLB Draft. He was the second straight Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year drafted by the Friars (MacKenzie Gore was their first round pick in 2017).
Highlight, Hoffman Moment, Honorable Mention: Welcome to Cooperstown.
This was so big that nothing else really matters. Trevor Hoffman was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, only the 3rd Padre to be enshrined in Cooperstown, NY.
Highlight: The Future Arrives at Petco Park
Finally we got to see one of the crown jewels of the vaunted Padres minor league system when, on August 28th, infielder Luis Urias landed in San Diego. In his MLB debut the 21-year-old 2nd baseman made an impossible diving stop to get an out and show off his infield range. In his second start he had three hits and by the end of the month he had his first big league homer.
It’s no coincidence the Padres went 4-0 in August after Urias arrived and with him in the lineup they had an 8-4 record. A hamstring injury cut his season short but he’s one of the early favorites to win the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year award and showed us that the kids on the farm just might be as good as advertised.
Hoffman Moment: There’s a new statue at Petco Park.
The Summer of Trevor continued when the statue of Hoffy was unveiled adjacent to the bullpen at Petco Park. The same folks who did Tony Gwynn’s statue worked on Hoffman’s, capturing him at the peak of his iconic delivery. Along with that came four consecutive days of giveaways, all Trevor-related, so we got some cool stuff to take home.
Honorable Mention: The El Paso Chihuahuas won their PCL division championship to advance to the playoffs again.
Highlight: Proof Deano messed up big.
Each year Forbes releases its list of NFL team valuations. This year showed the Chargers worth had increased only a little but after the move from San Diego to Los Angeles and when the numbers were crunched it shows the Spanos family is going to end up losing money on the move, which is the exact opposite of what they were trying to do when they left their home of 56 years. Any time that ownership group’s ineptitude is on display it’s a win for San Diego.
Hoffman Moment: Where the street has a new name.
A stretch of road outside Petco Park was renamed Trevor Hoffman Way. The fact it intersects with Tony Gwynn Drive makes it even more fantastic.
Honorable Mention: The San Antonio Missions earned a Texas League playoff spot. They won their first round series to make the Finals before losing to the Tulsa Drillers. Also, RHP Chris Paddack was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Highlight: Fall stars.
Padres prospects Buddy Reed and Miguel Diaz were named to the illustrious Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars game. Reed ended up being the game's MVP.
Hoffman Moment: Finally, a chance to rest.
After all that happened Trevor needed a chance to just chill for a bit. He got that in October so let’s leave the man alone for a bit.
Honorable Mention: Let’s Go Gulls!
The Gulls returned for another American Hockey League season in front of what are once again the largest crowds in the Western Conference. San Diego is the best non-NHL hockey town in the nation.
Highlight: Toreros stay perfect
USD’s football team is the best non-scholarship program in the nation. The Toreros won yet another Pioneer League title to reach the FCS Playoffs for the 5th straight year. They also ran their obscene winning streaks in the PFL to 34 straight at home and 29 in a row overall.
Hoffman Moment: Adding another hat.
Always wanting to help kids and grow the game of baseball, Hoffman was named the National Spokesperson and Brand Ambassador for the Perfect Game organization, the entity that puts on some of the biggest amateur showcase events in the nation. Hoffman was always involved with the Classic at Petco Park but now he’s gone nationwide.
Honorable Mention: SDSU West won at the ballot box so we’re very likely going to have a new stadium for the Aztecs and anyone else to play in sometime between 2021 and 2051.
Highlight: Seals surface with win.
The San Diego Seals finally played their long-anticipated inaugural game in the National Lacrosse League, on the road against the Colorado Mammoth, and got themselves a win. The reaction on social media was impressive, showing just how big a deal lacrosse has become in San Diego and offering hope that we can have a professional champion in town.
Hoffman Moment: Paving the way.
There are other closers in the Hall of Fame. Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley. But those guys either had starting experience or threw multiple innings to earn saves. Hoffman is really the first pure one-inning closer to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. It’s no coincidence that the very next year Lee Smith, the man whose saves record Hoffman broke (and who I think should have been in a long time ago), was added by the Today’s Game Committee. Smith will go in with Yankees Legend Mariano Rivera, who will be the first closer elected on the first ballot.
Honorable Mention: Tatis rakes again.
Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres top prospect and one of the best young players in the game, returned from a thumb injury to play in the Dominican Winter League, where he led all shortstops in home runs during the regular season then hit a couple more in the playoffs for Estrellas Orientales. Not bad for a 19-year-old kid and a very nice note to end 2018 on.