From his ability to play nearly any position on the diamond to his highly visible eye black, Tyler Hoffman has done a little bit of everything to help the Aberdeen Smittys.
Hoffman is one of the reasons why the American Legion baseball team has seen a reversal in fortunes this summer. He will be the first admit that there has been plenty of frustrating moments during his four years with the squad.
“The last few years we haven’t really been the hottest team in the state,” Hoffman said. “We’ve always fallen short. Last year we had a problem with errors.”
This year, though, the Smittys have come to play with a different mindset which has resulted in a different outcome. While the team still has its rough patches, there have also been some breakthrough moments, including a win over Sioux Falls West, one the state’s top teams.
“We’re ready to play when we come to the field. That’s what really changed for us,” Hoffman said. “Last year when we came we were scared to lose.”
Hoffman has done his part. He has collected 18 extra-base hits this season, including 10 doubles and six triples.
He also provides a lot of versatility playing just about anywhere on the field, including pitcher. He said his mindset is a bit different once he takes the mound.
“When I’m pitching, I’m really going for you. I don’t care about anyone else,” Hoffman said. “I’m going for you. I’m going to try to get that out right there.”
Even his game-day routine changes when he knows he will be the starting pitcher.
“I usually do a little bit of a different routine when I know I’m going to pitch. I’ll make sure I won’t eat as much, because then it just upsets my stomach,” he said. “It’s hard for me to pitch on something like that.”
While Hoffman is an intense competitor, he also tries to have fun with the sport. That’s why he and teammate Matt Feiock started a trend by wearing eye black early in the season.
“We thought it would be cool because our jerseys are black,” Hoffman said. “It kind of just grew on our team. It’s kind of just a big thing that we started.”
Hoffman not only wears eye black, he covers most of his face with it, much like former Minnesota Vikings player John Randle.
“When you don’t put on enough eye black it starts to wear off. You feel like you have to put quite a bit on, just so it stays there,” Hoffman said. “It makes you looks aggressive.”
Especially when Hoffman takes to the mound.
“You really don’t see pitchers wearing eye black,” he said.
Hoffman plans on playing baseball at Iowa Lakes Community College next season. When asked about continuing to wear eye black at the next level, Hoffman responded, “Oh yes, for sure. 100 percent. I really hope I can. I feel so bare without it on.”
Before then, Hoffman and the Smittys hope to make some noise in the upcoming post season. Their new attitude has already paid dividends.
“Our whole team kind of came together and we all talked about we don’t want to be that team for four years straight that really doesn’t get anywhere,” Hoffman said. “We hated losing. We hated losing these games with these little errors that we had. We all wanted to win.”
That never-say-die attitude has been on display all season. The squad has been involved in numerous close games and has shown a resolve unseen in previous seasons.
“In 30 years, when I look back on this I want to be able to think that I did whatever I could in those games to help us win. That’s with everybody. I feel like everyone has that mentality,” Hoffman said. “We don’t want to look back and feel like we didn’t do enough. I kind of look at it like that. I always want to do as well as I can, and not look back on it like, why didn’t I do that or make that diving play that I didn’t go for?”
It is that mindset that Hoffman will take with him when he heads off to Iowa to play college baseball next year. He knows it be will a challenge to play at the next level, but he is prepared for what lies ahead.
“I’ve heard from a lot that it’s going to be really competitive. I’m aware of that,” Hoffman said. “I’m just going to go out there and do whatever I can to fit in with the level.”
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