By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.—Thirteen years ago, Justin Hoffman was wearing the ‘Withnell Dodger’ uniform following his senior year of high school at North Salem High School following helping the Vikings to a League Title and seeing himself get second team as a third baseman.
That summer, like the summer following that, Hoffman and the Dodgers found themselves dogpiling; celebrating a State Championship Title that holds true to him now in 2017 as a assistant coach of those same Dodgers.
“Just dogpiling in the middle of Grants Pass and Klamath Falls when we won our State Titles with Withnell,” said Hoffman. “There’s nothing that can’t beat a dogpile in the middle of the mound.
“The road-trips, the Comradery. The stuff outside of baseball that we got to do as a team, I cherish that and always bring it up when I see a guy who was on that team. Just stuff like that and I owe a lot of that to not only Chris Lee (North Salem Head Coach) and all those coaches that I had….the mentors before that, my father. Coach Emery, a lot of guys.”
All those coaches helped develop ‘The Hoff’ into the guy he is today as his coaching career started shortly after his one-year at Clackamas Community College following High School as Hoffman made his way back to the school he called home for four-years under his old and still-current Head Coach in Lee; learning under one of Salem’s best baseball coaches, this time as coach rather than player.
And not a first-day goes by when he stepped back on the field with Lee that it doesn’t feel like it was the Early Spring of 2004 and Hoffman and that team of North Salem Viks were preparing for another season ahead.
“I always get that goose bump on the first day like I’m back, like it’s 2004 all over again, stepping on the field and kudos to him letting me go there and the same thing like with Withnell, give back to where I came from and where my roots are and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Hoffman.
It holds a special place within Hoffman that he had since he got done with High School 13-years-ago. His journey through North, coaching at Linn-Benton, etc. just the opportunity to give back and share this game that meant so much to this 30-something-year-old student of the game as Hoffman continues to be a role model to the younger generation.
“Coaching and giving back is always something I’ve always wanted to do since after High School and just kind of being…I feel like we don’t have enough role models today that are giving these guys, steering these guys down the right road and that’s my main thing,” starts Hoffman.
“I mean baseball is obviously why I’m out here, but life lessons is the priority number one and giving back to these guys is something special to me, I kind of get emotional about it.”
Similar to that of current-South Salem Head Coach Max Price, a 2007 Grad and too played and coached under Lee, Hoffman is taking lessons away from Lee and incorporating that into his own style of coaching.
First was communication, and second, who are you when your back is against the wall and times are tough. Are you going to fold or are you going to work through that adversity with that never-say-never mindset?
“Communication was huge and what kind of character are you when the chips are down,” said Hoffman. “It’s easy to be, when things are going good, it’s easy to jump on board and do that. It’s how you can face that adversity and basically just kind of that ‘blue collar’-mentality.
“(Lee’s) had that since Day one and I come from, maybe a background, I got hand-me-downs and things like that and just kind of that working-your-ass-off and working with what you got and just applying that to the field. Making lemonade out of lemons. But yeah, it’s been a blessing and maybe one day my boy will come through and do the same thing.”
Hoffman lit up like a firework on the Fourth of July when he mentioned about his son, Parker Lewis Hoffman, who was born on July 1, 2017.
“I’ve never thought I could love something like that and once again blessed, I have a awesome wife who is a baseball wife as I like to call it. Who understands the long days and long nights equals out to something and she realizes that I’m trying to give back to these guys, they deserve it,” starts Hoffman with that same smile on his face from a moment ago.
“It’s a blessing to have him and I still have many life-long lessons to learn being a dad so it’s cool.”
Life lessons, whether it’s through sports or through life, is something we take and develop into our own personal way.
For Justin Hoffman, the lesson’s he’s learned through the game of baseball as well from personal experiences has made him who he is today as a person and as a coach; and as Hoffman pointed out, there is still many more things to learn along the way as he shares this journey of his from his son to the kids he coach.