Hoffmann All Baseball (Well, Almost)

Jamie Hoffmann will never be completely weaned from hockey but he's learned to live the sport vicariously now. Forbidden to play the game after signing with the Dodgers, he then became the coach of a youth team during the winter back home in New Ulm, Minn. Last off-season, though, he didn't even do that but rather sat in the stands at high school games watching his sister play.

That's right- his sister for hockey is not restricted to the male sex in Minnesota. And, Jamie says, "She's a junior and she's pretty good. I think she'll get a college scholarship."

Jamie himself turned down both a chance to go pro with the Carolina Hurricanes and a scholarship offer of his own from Colorado College when he decided to sign with the Dodgers as a free agent late in the summer of 2003. He had been named Minnesota's Class AAA Baseball Player of the Year that spring but still was passed over in the June draft because of the feeling that he'd already picked hockey. Thus, he surprised a lot of people when he chose the diamond.

He's still something of a surprise to the unknowing for, you look at his 6-3, 205 frame and consider his background and figure, he's a guy who'll flex his muscles on the diamond as well, hit for distance and all that. But that's not his game, at least, not at the present.

No, Jamie has always featured speed as his main asset. He runs very well so plays center field where he covers ground exceptionally well. He also has the knack of getting a great jump on fly balls.

Oh, occasionally, he'll rip one out at the plate. Has four home runs so far which is two more than he managed last year between Columbus and Vero Beach. There should be more to come but the long ball really isn't what he's looking for.

He hit four in his first year in the Gulf Coast League. He was a middle of the order man then but was switched to leadoff (as well as moving from third base to center) last year at Columbus. Hitting .308 , he was moved up to Vero Beach but was another who found the step up a bit formidable. He finished at .241 for them.

This year hasn't been all that smooth, either. He led off for Vero at the start but proved to be more of a hacker than a get-on guy so he was dropped in the order. Now, he frequently hits ninth although his average is steadily climbing after hovering around .200 at the start.

He's got it up to .269 now, respectable country, and looks more confident at the plate although he still has to fight a tendency to chase breaking pitches outside the zone.

Hockey? Oh, he was glad that the Hurricanes (who still own his rights) won the Stanley Cup. Cheered for them- from a distance, though. No, Jamie's a baseball player now. There's a lot of rough edges to smooth out but the athletic talent is there. And he plays the game aggressively - all the time.

After all, you can't take all that training away from this former defenseman. Nobody wants to try, either. His all-out attitude is part of what makes him a prospect. No, it isn't easy but he's a grinder- and that could pay off bigtime someday.

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