"I was comfortable with that decision. When you know in your heart that is the direction you want to go, you don't look back," Hoffman said during his retirement ceremony at PETCO Park on Wednesday. "At that time, moving to the pitchers' mound was important to me."
The rest, as they say, is history. Hoffman went on to a Major League-record 601 saves in an 18-year career that came to a close on Tuesday when Hoffman announced his retirement.
Barton, now a cross-checker with the Reds, actually had history with Hoffman before 1989. Barton was a student-coach at Arizona State, where he saw Hoffman, who was playing for Pac-10 rival Arizona.
What did Barton first notice about Hoffman? That was easy: the arm.
"From a scouting end, his arm was exceptional. I had been around the game but I hadn't seen an arm like that. It was an 80 on our scouting scale," Barton said. "When you have one tool that is that far beyond average, you have to show some interest."
On the professional 20-80 scouting scale, 50 is considered average and 60 is considered above average. An 80 doesn't come around often.
But when Hoffman's other tools and his performance at the plate didn't measure up the first two years of his professional career, a move was made to maximize his arm.
"You don't release or let go an arm like that," Barton said, admitting that the decision to move Hoffman to the mound wasn't a surprise. "He took to it really quickly. From when he was a position player, he knew how to get guys out. He was throwing 96, 97 miles per hour and just throwing it by guys."
Hoffman was a full-time pitcher beginning in 1991. Two years later, and after he had been selected by the Marlins in the expansion draft, he was in the Major Leagues. Hoffman was traded to the Padres in 1993, where he started his march toward history.
But never did Barton think Hoffman would end up with 601 saves and a likely spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"If you would have told me he'd be headed to the Hall of Fame, I would have said, 'No way.' I don't think anyone could have said that," Barton said.