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Behind every great closer is a great wife

Behind every great closer is a great wife

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MILWAUKEE -- Tracy Hoffman is no pitching coach, but she, perhaps more than anyone else, helped her husband complete his trek to 600 saves.

Trevor Hoffman finally reached a finish line of sorts on Tuesday night, when he closed a 4-2 win over the Cardinals that allowed Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader to exhale after a long and trying summer. Exactly four months elapsed between career save Nos. 596 and 600, a period of struggle the likes of which Hoffman had never experienced in a career path bound for Cooperstown, N.Y., and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

He credited pitching coach Rick Peterson for getting his mechanics back, head athletic Roger Caplinger for helping fix a balky right elbow that Hoffman kept out of the headlines and manager Ken Macha for the opportunity to resume picking up saves in August. Hoffman especially thanked Brewers fans for their continued support, even though his own early-season struggles put the team in a hole it could not escape.

Most of all, Hoffman credited Tracy, his wife of 17 years and a one-time Buffalo Bills cheerleader who said yes to a scoreboard proposal during Super Bowl XXVII -- more than two months ahead of Trevor's Major League debut with the Florida Marlins.

"'Trace' has done an unbelievable job of making this happen," Trevor Hoffman said.

When Trevor struggled in April and May and lost his hold of the closer's role, Tracy essentially joined the Brewers' traveling party. Every weekend, she and often the couple's three sons -- 14-year-old Brody, 13-year-old Quinn and 11-year-old Wyatt -- met the Brewers in Milwaukee or on the road. Tracy continued the back-and-forth travel from San Diego until late June, when the kids' school year came to an end.

Trevor said that having his family near him all summer helped him brush away the thoughts that age might have finally caught up to him. He was, after all, 42 years old, the second-most senior Major Leaguer to throw a pitch this season.


"I'm so proud of him for never giving up and the example he has been for our kids. I think it's been a great life lesson for the boys."

-- Tracy Hoffman

"Whenever we're apart, it's a difficult time," Tracy Hoffman said. "And then when he started to struggle, he was by himself and would go home to an empty house. That's hard. He had never really struggled like that in his career."

So she started compiling frequent-flier miles.

"I think he questioned his ability," Tracy said. "I think he was wondering whether it was the end. But my big thing was, 'How do you go from a year like last year to this? You just don't all of a sudden lose it.'

"So I knew he would be able to get through it because he's an extremely strong individual, and he's not going to give up the fight. But he was definitely down. I would fly out and basically just listen."

Trevor Hoffman's sore elbow was more of a problem that he let on, Tracy said. Caplinger & Co. fixed that over the All-Star break with a cortisone injection that relieved inflammation in the joint.

Tracy contributed encouragement.

"We discussed what was going on, but I wasn't going to pretend to tell him how to pitch," she said. "He just wanted the comfort of knowing that there is more to life than baseball, and that he had a family that would support him and love him no matter what. We loved him no matter whether he got to 600 saves or not. Being a dad and being a husband, that's what's important to us."

On Tuesday, Tracy and the kids were there to celebrate dad finally reaching his milestone. They had returned to San Diego only a week earlier for the start of school, and Trevor worried about pulling the kids out so early in the school year to return to Milwaukee for an unscheduled shot at 600.


"He just wanted the comfort of knowing that there is more to life than baseball, and that he had a family that would support him and love him no matter what. We loved him no matter whether he got to 600 saves or not. Being a dad and being a husband, that's what's important to us."

-- Tracy Hoffman

Tracy overruled Trevor's objections, and she and the boys were there on the field, amid the melee. Brody was able to present his dad with the game ball, and it will join the family's collection. Trevor has a ball from all but a handful of his saves on display at home.

"I know my guys are pretty excited to have this happen, though I'm pretty sure they would have liked to stay out of school a little bit longer," an emotional Trevor Hoffman said Tuesday night. "Their whole life, all they've known is baseball. I hope they've been able to witness how important it is that they've been a part of this, how hard work will get you places. I like to wear this uniform as a ballplayer, but I'm dad. Family is everything, and to have everybody here is pretty awesome."

Credit mom for making that call.

"She felt this needs to be done together," dad said with a smile on Wednesday. "She was right. They're always right."

The more difficult decision will come this winter, when Hoffman, who turns 43 on Oct. 13, will decide whether to play a 19th Major League season.

"I've always said that whether he continues or not, it has to be his decision," Tracy said. "We've always made it work as a family and I would continue to support him no matter his decision."

Does he have a sense either way?

"No, I don't," she said. "I wish I did have an idea. Now, with 600 over, maybe that will come into play. But knowing Trevor, he's not going to think about that until the offseason."

By then, Hoffman will be enjoying a few months off the baseball diamond, where he's just dad.

"I'm so proud of him for never giving up and the example he has been for our kids," Tracy Hoffman said. "I think it's been a great life lesson for the boys."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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