Rays Mourn The Loss Of Jim Hoff
The Rays valued the influence Jim Hoff had on their minor league players and staff every day during his 17 years as a field coordinator.
And now they appreciate him even more after his unexpected passing on Dec. 10 in Tampa.
"Jimmy was a remarkable man," farm director Mitch Lukevics said during the Dec. 20 celebration of life event at ZooTampa. "He was our friend, colleague, mentor, surrogate father. There wasn't a bad day in Jim's life. And he touched us all."
Hoff touched thousands during his 52 years in pro ball.
Hoff started as a minor league player with the Reds in 1967, then moved into coaching and managing, serving 18 years total. After a stint with the Blue Jays, he joined the Rays in 2002 and quickly established himself as a valuable member of the organization.
"He made a profound impact on countless players, coaches and staff,’’ general manager Erik Neander said. "He cared deeply for all of them, for the organizations in which he worked, and for the game of baseball. Hoffy was a great teacher and an even better person, beloved by all who knew him, and we will miss him terribly.’’
That impact was evidenced by the crowd of 500-plus who showed up at his funeral service at the Tampa church where he collapsed during a penance mass.
Former Rays players showed up in force. Stephen Vogt and Jared Sandberg—who also worked with Hoff as a minor league manager—flew in from Seattle. Elliot Johnson came from North Carolina and Reid Brignac from Louisiana. Rocco Baldelli interrupted his initial duties as Twins manager to pop in for a few hours. Pitching coach Kyle Snyder cut short a Colorado vacation. Members of the Triple-A Durham front office came down.
Also paying their respects were those who knew Hoff from other organizations. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild had him as his first manager in Billings, Mont. Tom Hume crossed paths with him in the Reds organization. Toronto broadcaster Buck Martinez knew him from his Blue Jays days. New Mets bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez worked with him with the Rays.
"He was a special man,’’ Rothschild said.
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— The Rays promoted minor league catching coordinator Paul Hoover to the big league staff, replacing Baldelli as field coordinator. The Rays also named Jonathan Erlichman, who has been director of analytics, to the newly created—and first in baseball position—of process and analytics coach.
— The Rays traded away three pitching prospects on Dec. 21 as part of a three-team deal with the Athletics and Rangers that netted them a 2019 supplemental first-round pick (No. 38 overall), righty reliever Emilio Pagan and 23-year-old righthander Rollie Lacy. The Rays parted with lefthanders Brock Burke, their 2018 minor league pitcher of the year, and Kyle Bird and righthander Yoel Espinal.