Since moving to Oakdale in 2012, 68-year-old Eric Hoff has been on the local senior softball scene. Hoff is a pitcher for the Animals, a senior softball team based out of Modesto. Over the years, Hoff has accumulated seven championship rings in senior softball.
“My goal is to get 12 rings. One for each of my grandchildren,” said Hoff.
The Bay Area native has always had a fascination with the sports of baseball and softball. He played baseball in high school and became the varsity head coach at Livermore High School, where he coached a young Randy Johnson from 1981-1982.
“One of the nicest young men ever. The first time I met him, I was walking to the coach’s office and this kid stopped me and introduced himself. He said ‘Are you the baseball coach?’ I said ‘yes’. He went on to say, ‘My name is Randy Johnson and I am a junior and I want to make your team.’ Needless to say he made the team and was throwing at about 93 miles an hour. He was afraid to pitch inside to the other kids because he did not want to hurt anyone,” Hoff recalled with a laugh.
“The Big Unit” never forgot his high school baseball coach, either, and invited him to Cooperstown, New York for Johnson’s Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2015.
Hoff’s journey to senior softball began when he was 50 and was asked to play in the senior league in Livermore.
“A team approached me and asked if I would pitch for them. I was on board and began pitching for them. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into because I did not think it was going to be as competitive as it turned out to be,” he explained.
When Hoff moved out of the Bay Area and into his Oakdale home with his wife Sherry, he continued his softball career and found a new home with the Animals. Hoff has been on teams that have won the Northwest Championship, Western National Championship, Rock ‘N’ Reno Championship, California Cup Championship and several World Championships. He was also named Most Valuable Player in the California Cup. Hoff displayed his toughness at the California Cup earlier this year. He was named the starting pitcher for the team’s first game of the elimination tournament. In the first inning, first batter Hoff faced, he took a line drive to his right forearm, causing a fracture. A fractured forearm did not slow him down, though, as he earned the win in a complete game effort. He later went on to pitch in the final game to win the championship that same day.
“It is a big tournament, 30 teams in our bracket. We were playing a team from Indiana, who we later found out had never lost,” Hoff stated. “There was no way I was getting pulled from the game. I just went on pitching.”
Injuries are nothing new to the pitcher, who suffered a big toe injury earlier this year. Hoff also had his left knee replaced and played as soon as he got clearance from the doctors.
This summer Hoff and the Animals will be playing in the National Championships in August.