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|More than a dream for Hoffpauir|
This is the second in a series on the top three Concordia Parish athletes of all time in a poll conducted by the Concordia Sentinel. Jarrett Hoffpauir finished second to Donnie Daye and ahead of Guy Hill in third place.
In 1998, Jarrett Hoffpauir started as a freshman on the Vidalia High baseball team and at quarterback as a sophomore on the Vidalia High football field.
But he was anything but a rookie.
Hoffpauir walked the Vidalia sidelines as a ballboy when he was in grade school, often following his father, Johnny Lee Hoffpauir, to the football field for practice. Johnny Lee, the head baseball coach at Vidalia since 1979, served as a Viking assistant football coach for more than 25 years.
Jarrett also served as batboy during the spring for his father's baseball team.
"I started when I was old enough for it to be safe," Hoffpauir said of being a part of the football and baseball programs.
Several years later, Hoffpauir would end his football career as the all-time passing leader and his baseball career with the highest-ever batting average, breaking several records, most of which were held by older brother Josh Hoffpauir.
"I've always been around games, from my dad coaching to my mom (Pam) and dad playing softball," Hoffpauir said. "I was always at the football field during football season and the baseball and softball fields during the spring, shagging balls or whatever the occasion allowed. I think it helped growing up around it and played a big part in any success I have had."
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Hoffpauir has always had to overcome the challenge of people thinking he was too small to play.
"I think the fact I know the games so well played a big part," Hoffpauir said. "I was never the biggest or the strongest, but my instincts took over a lot of time.
Hoffpauir finished at Vidalia High with 2,468 total passing yards. That mark would later be broken by Tony Hawkins with 2,517.
In his senior year, Hoffpauir completed 58 of 132 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions.
He also carried the ball 50 times for 286 yards despite having a completely new offensive line.
As a 5-foot-6, 140-pound sophomore, Hoffpauir was named to the District 3-2A first team at quarterback.
The quarterback on the Class 2A All-State team that year was Eli Manning of Newman High.
Hoffpauir also made first team all-district as a quarterback his junior year in 1999 as the Vikings lost to Christian Life, 31-20, in the second round to finish 10-2 on the season. Michael Clayton, a wide receiver with Tampa Bay, quarterbacked the Crusaders in that contest. Clayton was filling in for the injured Stefan Lefors, who went on to star at Louisville and was drafted in the fourth round by Carolina. Lefors now plays for Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League.
"My sophomore and junior years we were really good," Hoffpauir said. "In my junior year we had a lot of seniors. I know we ran out of the shotgun a lot that year. Dariel (Mays) was a great running back and our offensive line was tremendous. I never had any pressure. They were a big reason for our success. Unfortunately we didn't have as much success my senior year, but it was still enjoyable. I miss the football part of my career. I really enjoyed playing football."
Vidalia defeated Franklin County 43-16 in its opener in Hoffpauir's junior year. Hoffpauir was 8-of-13 for 113 yards in that contest.
The Vikings trounced Ouachita Christian the following week, 62-37.
Hoffpauir was 16-of-19 for 225 yards.
Hoffpauir passed for 133 yards and ran for 38 more in a 42-6 win over Jonesboro-Hodge.
Against Crowville, Hoffpauir was 10-of-14 for 116 yards and scored the first TD of the game on a 37-yard run.
Ferriday blanked Ferriday 16-0 as Hoffpauir completed a 63-yard pass to Mays and also picked off a pass in the contest.
Vidalia defeated East Beauregard in a first-round playoff contest as Hoffpauir was 13-of-21 for 233 yards with three touchdown passes. He also rushed five times for 50 yards.
Hoffpauir passed for 96 yards against Christian Life. Despite a dry day, the Crusaders watered down their football field in what appeared to be an attempt to slow down Mays and Vidalia's speed. Mays finished with 2,264 yards rushing that season.
While the highlights were not as plentiful in 2000, Hoffpauir was 4-of-8 for 71 yards in leading the Vikings to an 8-6 win over Franklin County in the opener.
Hoffpauir was 11-of-21 for 232 yards in a 41-8 win over Crowville that allowed him to pass Josh as the Viking career passing leader. Jarrett totaled 2,801 yards after the win, bypassing Josh's career total of 2,636.
But it was obvious where Hoffpauir's future was even as a freshman, where he was named to the All-District first team as a second baseman.
"I actually remember my first at-bat, even though I don't remember what I did," Hoffpauir said. "I remember walking into the box and my knees were shaking so bad and I was ready for it to be over with."
Hoffpauir moved to shortstop his sophomore year and was named most valuable player in the district and first team all-State.
As a junior in 2000, Hoffpauir batted .519.
Hoffpauir was named Class 2A Player of the Year his senior season, hitting .632, striking out only six times in 96 at bats and was 9-1 on the mound with a 1.27 earned run average, tossing a no-hitter against Jackson High in a first-round playoff contest.
"I knew I had a shot at baseball," Hoffpauir said.
Hoffpauir also had a .910 fielding percentage as a senior and hit a home run as a member of the East team in the state All-Star game.
He broke 17 team records, 10 of which were set by older brother Josh.
In his senior season, Hoffpauir allowed five hits and struck out seven in Vidalia's 8-2 district-opening win over Crowville.
Hoffpauir improved to 7-0 on the mound in a 13-2 win over Block in which he helped his own cause with his 10th home run of the season.
Vidalia clinched its ninth district title in the past 12 years with a 10-0 win over Block as Hoffpauir did not allow a runner past second base and collected two doubles at the plate.
Vidalia entered the playoffs with a 24-4 record and 8-0 mark in district. The Vikings beat Jackson High 12-1 in a first-round playoff game as Hoffpauir kept the visitors without a hit for five innings and also tripled and singled.
Vidalia beat South Beauregard 12-1 in a second-round game as sophomore Barry Bowden, who is now in the Kansas City Royals organization, got the win. Hoffpauir doubled in the contest.
Hoffpauir lost his only game on the mound in the 5-3 setback to DeQuincy in the quarterfinals, allowing only one earned run. He also doubled in the contest.
While Josh was part of Vidalia's lone state baseball championship in 1996, the farthest Jarrett got was in the Class 2A quarterfinals when the Vikings lost to DeQuincy.
"I wouldn't say I was disappointed, it's just one of those things when in Louisiana you have a one-game series in the playoffs and sometimes the best team does not win," Hoffpauir said. "I learned to deal with that. I was in the dugout when Josh's team won state, so I got to see all of that."
The 26-year-old Hoffpauir saw a lot more after signing with Southern Mississippi.
Hoffpauir holds the USM record for hits in a season with 109 in 2004 and runs batted in with 92 the same season.
Hoffpauir batted .405 in 2004 when he was named to the second team Baseball America, USA Today, National Baseball Writers Association and CollegeBaseballInsider second team and Louisville Slugger third team.
Hoffpauir was one of three finalists for the Boo Ferriss Award, which goes to the best collegiate player in Mississippi.
Stephen Head of Ole Miss won the award.
Hoffpauir was also a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award which goes to the best college player in the nation and the 2004 Dick Howser Trophy, which goes to the nation's top collegiate baseball player.
Hoffpauir's final collegiate games were played in the old Alex Box Stadium in the 2004 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, where USM went 1-2.
"Alex Box is somewhere I always wanted to play," Hoffpauir said. "I always wanted to play for LSU growing up, but they didn't talk to me a whole lot."
Hoffpauir hit a team high .455 for the tournament, including two doubles and was the lone Eagle named to the All-Regional team.
Hoffpauir was drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 Draft as a junior by the Cardinals.
He gradually moved up through the St. Louis Cardinal Minor League system until he landed a starting position with the triple-A Memphis Redbirds.
Hoffpauir was called up by the Cardinals for eight games during this past summer.
His stay in the Major Leagues may have only lasted eight games, but his impression was apparently a lasting one.
"I thought he handled himself very well," St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa was quoted as saying on the Cardinals' Web site. "If we were at the magic number of pitchers, he would still be on the team."
The Cardinals optioned Hoffpauir to Triple-A Memphis to make room for infielder Mark DeRosa from the disabled list.
"It was a wild ride," Hoffpauir said. "But that's baseball. You have to be ready to rock when the time comes."
Hoffpauir appeared in eight games with the Cardinals and was 3-for-12 with a .438 on-base percentage.
His first hit was a game-winner. On July 3 in the top of the ninth with the game tied at 4-4, Hoffpauir was the hero as his two-out, two-run single over shortstop in the top of the ninth gave the Cardinals the deciding runs in a hard-fought 7-4 win.
"That's something I will never forget," Hoffpauir said. "I'll always have the feeling of what that was like."
In his first at-bat back at Memphis, Hoffpauir had two hits and walked in the Redbirds' 7-6 loss to Nashville.
"It was kind of nice to get a lot of at-bats for a change," he said. "I was able to get some of the rust off. I wasn't getting a lot of at-bats in St. Louis. I just told myself to relax and do what I've always done."
Hoffpauir hit .291 with Memphis with 14 home runs, 22 doubles and 53 RBIs over 108 contests this year.
As part of moves made in baseball because of contract situations, St. Louis placed Hoffpauir on the waiver list and the Toronto Blue Jays immediately picked him up. He is currently on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster.
Toronto's triple-A team plays in Las Vegas.
"When I first came into the Majors I didn't know what to expect," Hoffpauir said. "I just went in playing hard every game, which is still what I do. I think that paid off for me and I'm knocking on the door again. I don't know a whole lot about the Blue Jays, but I'm going to go in there with the same philosophy I have had my whole career. I am going to work as hard as I can and see what happens."
Former LSU standout Aaron Hill plays second base for Toronto. Other infield positions appear to be open.
"I think there is more opportunity for me at Toronto," Hoffpauir said. "I'm definitely excited whether I start with the Blue Jays or in triple-A. It's a better situation. The Cardinals were kind of backed up and I was right in the middle. Toronto said they will look at me at second, shortstop and third base. I want to show them I can play more than one position. I think I kind of got labeled in the Cardinal organization as only being able to play second. I'm exited about the fresh start."
Hoffpauir said his brief time in the Majors should have long-lasting effects.
"I think it is big to get one foot in the door," he said. "A lot of people notice you. I certainly would have liked staying longer, but now I know what to expect if the chance comes again. The big thing is even if you played one day or five years, if it comes down to two or three players they will look at the one who has experience playing in the Major Leagues."
Hoffpauir also has other reasons to celebrate. He and Molly Malone of South Carolina were married in New Orleans in November.
"It's been great," Hoffpauir said. "I'm enjoying married life. We're looking forward to whatever is ahead of us."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|