Cubs' Hoffpauir had game for the ages
Four consecutive homers earns slugger two MiLBYs
Iowa's Micah Hoffpauir can be thankful that Round Rock reliever Ryan Houston doesn't have head-hunting tendencies. Otherwise, the postscript to Hoffpauir's record-setting Aug. 9 performance might have been a bit different.
The slugging first baseman had the game of his career that day at Round Rock, connecting for four home runs in his first four at-bats as the Cubs blitzed the Express, 15-3. Hoffpauir's performance tied several Pacific Coast League and Iowa team records and earned him the Minor League Baseball Yearly Award for best overall single-game performance and best performance in a Triple-A contest.
What it didn't get him was a fastball off the right side of his head when he came to bat in the ninth inning against Houston while looking for roundtripper No. 5. Instead, he simply flew out to right.
"I had a couple of guys come up to me after the game and mention that they were surprised that they didn't hit me," Hoffpauir said. "There were 11 homers hit in that game (including a franchise-record eight by Iowa), so there were a lot of people hitting homers. We were all kind of sitting back in awe of the whole deal.
"So it never really crossed my mind until after the game. I'm not a guy who showboats a home run. I just duck my head and run. I didn't feel as if I did anything to warrant it. If I had, it would have just been part of the game. I would have been 4-for-4 instead of 4-for-5. And if it did happen, I wouldn't have been mad, I promise."
Hoffpauir's performance made him the fifth player in modern Pacific Coast League annals to hit four homers in a game and the first since Las Vegas' Eddie Williams did it against Calgary on April 22, 1988. Hoffpauir also became just the third player in PCL history to hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats. The last to do it was Phoenix's Matt Williams against Albuquerque on May 25, 1988.
Pete Schneider holds the all-time PCL record with five home runs in one game, a record he set against Salt Lake City while playing for Vernon on May 11, 1923. Hoffpauir matched the Iowa team mark set by Wade Rowdon on June 9, 1987 against Oklahoma City when both teams were members of the now-defunct American Association.
"I had a lot of fun doing it," Hoffpauir said. "I'm hoping I have a chance to do it a lot more. I haven't really thought about it much since it happened. But it was definitely a special game. I had quite a few family members and friends there to witness it. We were only three hours from home in Jacksonville, Texas. It was really neat that they were able to see it."
Hoffpauir said that he didn't notice anything special about the day that would have precipitated such a performance. It was the second game of a four-game series and Hoffpauir had taken advantage of a rare off day before the series began to go home and spend some time with his wife.
Despite missing the first month of the season with an oblique strain and two weeks in May when he was called up to Chicago, where he made his Major League debut with the Cubs, Hoffpauir was putting together a career year in what would ultimately amount to half a Triple-A season. He appeared in only 71 games for Iowa yet hit 25 homers, drove in 100 runs and hit .362.
The game against the Express was the pinnacle. He sent a fastball over the center-field fence in the first inning off Joshua Miller to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. He took Miller deep again in the third, this time on a changeup, and once more in the sixth, again on a fastball, before leading off the eighth with a blast off Chad Paronto. It was only one of two homers Paronto allowed in 70 innings this season.
"I didn't think about hitting the home runs until I actually hit the fourth one," Hoffpauir said. "I went to the plate with my same approach, just try and stay in the middle. It had worked for me in my first three at-bats. After that fourth time, though, I had a big grin on my face. I couldn't believe it. I was really shocked, as much as anyone else was.
"In the fifth at-bat, I said let's try and hit one out of here. I've never really gone to the plate with that being my plan or approach. I always stay back and just see what I can do if I get into a hitter's count. As far as telling myself I'm going to hit a home run and then try to do it, no, I haven't done that too many times in my career."
Hoffpauir added that he believed he had never really played well in Round Rock prior to that game. He blamed his perceived lack of success at Dell Diamond on the fact that he was so close to home and usually had family in attendance, causing him to press.
However, the numbers tell a different story. Including the series in which he had his four-homer game, Hoffpauir is 28-for-75 (.373) with five homers and 14 RBIs in his career at Round Rock. He's hit in 17 of 22 career games at Dell Diamond.
"I usually have 10 or 20 people in the stands between friends and family and I try to do more than I am capable of and show off," he admitted. "I think this season was one of the first I did well against Round Rock in Round Rock."
Hoffpauir has one of the home run balls from the game -- someone retrieved it for him -- but that's all he kept in the way of souvenirs. He says he has no idea where the bat with which he made history is.
"It's a nice big-barreled bat that makes me concentrate on using my hands more," he said. "Looking back, I wish I would have kept it. What happened to it after that game, I don't even know."
While Hoffpauir had a big season with Iowa, he also made a splash in Chicago. He hit .342 with two homers and eight RBIs over 73 at-bats in 33 games for the Cubs. After toiling in the Minor Leagues for nearly eight years, he finds himself in a position where he may actually be part of the parent club next spring.
"I have two more options and I'm signed through 2010, so we'll see what happens and go from there," he said. "I'm happy where I'm at. The Cubs have given me an opportunity to play. The Cubs are also stocked pretty well, and I've had a couple of unfortunate injuries that have kept me away from the big leagues for a few years.
"Derrek Lee has the position [first base] sewn up pretty well in Chicago, but the neat thing about being with a National League team is that there are those pinch-hitting at-bats and the double-switches that open the door to playing time."
It doesn't hurt having a four-homer game on the resume, either.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.