Former CC recruit Hoffmann living big-league dream with Dodgers

Jamie Hoffmann had a chance at making the NHL according to CC coach Scott Owens. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER • Colorado College hockey coach Scott Owens loves baseball. After watching his favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers, win Monday he turned the channel to watch the Dodgers and Rockies.

When Dodgers rookie outfielder Jamie Hoffmann appeared on his screen, Owens had to look twice. Hoffmann was older, bigger and his equipment was different, but that was the guy Owens recruited to play forward for his hockey team six years ago.

“I said — and actually said it out loud — ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’” Owens said.

Hoffmann, who is from New Ulm, Minn., surprised the Tigers and signed a pro baseball contract the day he was supposed to start freshman orientation at CC in 2003. Owens tracked Hoffmann, who he called a “good kid,” for years but hadn’t realized he made the majors.

Owens can’t be blamed. When he checked on Hoffmann last year, Hoffmann was in the middle of a season in which he hit .278 with 10 homers at Double-A. Despite a tough road to the majors, Hoffmann said he never regretted his decision of baseball over hockey.“All my hockey buddies said ‘What are you doing?’” Hoffmann said. “And they gave me a hard time, especially for the first couple years when you’re in rookie ball and A ball because nobody knows anything or sees anything, but they’re happy to see baseball games now.”

The night before he was to come to CC, the Dodgers offered him a contract. L.A. wanted to sign him before he enrolled, or Hoffmann would have gone back in the Major League Baseball draft. Owens said he has never had another player choose pro baseball over college hockey, and none of his friends in coaching have experienced that either.

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Hoffmann is making a name for himself. He made his debut Friday, had a home run and four RBIs Sunday, then added a hit and two more RBIs in Monday’s win against Colorado. He didn’t get an at-bat Tuesday.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Hoffmann said about being in the majors. “Just trying to keep going about my business the way I’ve done it. It’s just a little nicer up here.”

CC saw him as a 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward. Now he has grown into a 235-pound outfielder, and Owens thinks that frame might have served him well in the NHL. He was an eighth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 after a breakthrough season (14 goals, 25 assists, 120 penalty minutes) with Des Moines of the U.S. Hockey League. He was raw when Owens recruited him.

“I think he could have been (an NHL player), with the way the NHL has gone,” Owens said. “He is a big boy who could skate.”

Hoffmann, who is a fan of CC hockey and follows the Tigers, isn’t sure how far he would have made it in hockey.

“I didn’t even know what kind of a hockey player I was, I was just raw and could skate, kind of,” Hoffmann said. “So I would have I would have had to make a lot of improvements, but I would have worked hard. And I love that sport.”

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