Suspension Hurts Inland Empire

Inland Empire not only doesn't have the first half title in their Cal League division, they won't have Jamie Hoffmann for the next three games. Nor Michael Rivera, for that mater.

Lancaster took care of the title business Wednesday but the 66ers had Hoffmann in the lineup for that one. Now he and Rivera will start a three-game suspension for their part in a bench-clearing brawl Monday against High Desert. When they get back, Russell Mitchell and Adam Godwin will take their three games off.

It all started when Rivera was hit by a pitch, an action he not surprisingly objected to- strongly. But only words were exchanged then, not blows. They came later.

That's when Hoffmann slid hard into second, dumping the defender, who decided it was time for fists. Hoffmann swung back and before it was all over, the benches cleared and players were busy being ejected.

When something like this occurs, it's natural to point to Hoffmann's hockey background. They don't shy away from physical contact in that game and he always gave more than he received while playing on ice. The Carolina Hurricanes liked the way he played so much, they drafted him but he chose baseball instead. After all, he was the high school Player of the Year in Minnesota in 2003, the year he led New Ulm to a state championship.

And he plays baseball hard. Watch him in center going after a fly ball in a take-no-prisoners style. He may be 6-2, 205 but he moves very well. He also gets an excellent read on flies and tracks them down in the far reaches.

Hoffmann was a third baseman when he debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2004 but was switched to center the next season. He hit well those first two years but dropped off to .252 last year prompting them to keep in high A for another season.

It's been a productive one for he's currently hitting .323 . Despite his size, his power is more gap style that long ball as his 17 doubles and three triples along with three homers demonstrates. He's also adept on the bases, having stolen 12 of 18 so far.

He slides hard, too. It's within the rules and and part of the game even if the opposition objects. So, he'll be sitting for awhile which is tough on him and the team. He doesn't play hockey anymore; rather he's an all-out performer who may well have learned that style on the ice.

What it has done is make him a better player and that's what suits the Dodgers. Don't worry, they won't try to change him.

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