NWL notes: Hoffpauir taking second shot

D-backs prospect returns to Hillsboro after pursuing NFL dream

Zach Hoffpauir played 10 games for the Hops in 2015 and is hitting .200 over seven contests this year. (Jared Ravich/MiLB.com)

By Billy Gates / Special to MiLB.com | July 11, 2018 10:00 AM

For most, playing professional baseball is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but D-backs prospect Zach Hoffpauir has taken a rare path.

Hoffpauir is in his second stint with the Class A Short Season Hillsboro Hops after a two-year absence from pro ball, and he was plenty busy while away from the game.

An All-Pac-12 performer in both football and baseball while at Stanford from 2013-2015, Hoffpauir signed with the D-backs after they selected him in the 22nd round of the 2015 Draft. The hard-hitting defensive back and outfielder for the Cardinal still had football eligibility left, and potentially a career in the NFL.

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"Some people wondered why I signed, and the Draft worked out a little differently than I thought it would," Hoffpauir said. "Injuries plagued me a little bit and I was rehabbing a lot, but it was still a great experience."

Between Rookie-level Missoula and Hillsboro in 2015, Hoffpauir played 17 games and collected 16 hits, but his itch for the gridiron started to come back following rehab. He decided to go back to The Farm for his last year of eligibility. He earned his free safety job back and had NFL aspirations after being named an Pac-12 honorable mention selection in 2014.

Hoffpauir played 10 games and registered 35 tackles as a fifth-year senior, but two concussions -- his fourth and fifth overall -- forced him to reconsider a career in football.

"I didn't want to risk my health,' Hoffpauir said. "I took some time and talk and talked to some people, and ended up thinking that football wasn't worth it. Money is great, but my health is more important."

Video: Hillsboro's Hoffpauir hits solo homer

Hoffpauir's athletic endeavors hit a crossroads. With a communications degree from Stanford secured, he took a year off from competition to get his body right. He wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to do, but he had job interviews lined up and he was working for his dad's propane company in Phoenix, so he was fine for the time being.

Those interviews didn't lead to any jobs and Hoffpauir felt like he was stuck. Much like it did for football, his passion for baseball was coming back, so he reached out to Mike Bell, the D-backs' vice president of player development.

Hoffpauir asked for his outright release with the idea he'd play independent ball to get back into the game. Much to his surprise, Bell asked him to come in for a workout.

"I didn't expect them to take me back at all," Hoffpauir said. "I thought I'd pursue other opportunities, but Mike said he wanted me to come in and see where I was at."

Hoffpauir worked out with the AZL D-backs for a week and the organization liked what they saw. He was down about 20 pounds from his football weight (202 pounds) and said he felt really good physically, but he didn't hit very much during his time off. That was the toughest part of coming back.

"Getting my timing back took a little bit," Hoffpauir said. "I only hit four or five times before the workout, and it came so quickly that I wasn't quite fully prepared to play baseball, but I thought if God wanted me to be here, he'd open a door for me."

With his body healed and contract renewed, Hoffpauir has relished the second shot with the D-backs. He said he loves being back in Hillsboro and he's living with the city's mayor, Steve Callaway.

"Hillsboro isn't a typical Minor League place," he said. "The facilities are great and it was great some of the fans still remembered me. It has been awesome. It's crazy how it all worked out."

In brief

Hops blast into first place: Hillsboro has rocketed to the top of the NWL South Division with a 17-8 record. Entering Tuesday's play, the Hops are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are the only team in the league with less than 10 loses. Catcher Andy Yerzy is seventh in the league batting race at .337, and he's also seventh in OPS at .906.

Terry-ing the cover off: Spokane first baseman Curtis Terry leads the league with eight home runs, and he runs it out of the yard every 9.75 at-bats. Salem-Keizer catcher Joey Bart, the No. 2 overall pick by the Giants, has homered four times in five games for the Volcanoes. In his first professional game July 4, Bart went 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs against Hillsboro.

Billy Gates is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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