West Lebanon Hurler Pitches Favorite Sport
BLAIRSVILLE--Dr. David Hoff spends his days at Hoff Chiropractic Clinic in Indiana manipulating the spines of his patients.
But as a pitcher for West Lebanon in the Indiana County League, he manipulates every batter he faces.
The competitive edge he carries on the field apparently is doing the trick this season, probably one of his best ever.
'I've won 44 straight games (in regular season play) since opening day in 1997,' said Hoff. 'I lost that game, but I haven't lost one since.
'As a pitcher, you know that one day you'll go out and someone will beat you around. I've been fortunate that I haven't had that yet.'
'Dave uses his head,' said West Lebanon Head Coach Mike Bertolino. 'He knows the batters and what they can and can't hit. He has perfect placement. He can put the ball anywhere...up, down or anywhere he wants to. He sets the batters up.'
'I played my first game for West Lebanon in 1979,' laughed Hoff. 'At that time, I was still a kid in American Legion Ball. I think 1980 was my first full season with West Lebanon.'
Bertolino has known Hoff for 35 years.
'He's always had good seasons, but he's developed so much over the years it's unreal,' said Bertolino.
So what's kept Hoff on the mound for so long?
'Mostly the camaraderie,' retorted Hoff. 'I get to play with a really nice group of people who are very successful on the field and off the field.
'I also have to give credit to Mike (Bertolino) for recruiting not only good baseball players, but good people. It's obviously one thing that's kept me there.
'Also I still love to play. I like the challenge of being a pitcher. One key to sticking with something is loving what you do.'
Hoff said that he treats several teammates, opponents and even his coaches, as patients when they visit his chiropractic clinic.
However, he said that one thing his team doesn't need is an attitude adjustment.
'We work together,' said Hoff. 'A lot of times people don't remember what goes on between the lines. It's the relationships that you build on the field that matter.'
Bertolino is the godfather of Hoff's daughter, Katyln, and coach Vince Curren is godfather to his son, Ryan.
'I do the brawn part of the coaching and he does the brains,' laughed Bertolino referring to Curren, a longtime friend.
'It's more that what people see on the field,' continued Bertolino about West Lebanon's maturity. 'The ball team is kind of like a family deal, and I think that has a lot to do with the winning, too. It's more than just playing baseball.
'We're so close that when something happens to one guy, everyone gets invited or shows up at a funeral or whatever.'
Over the years, Hoff has had a chance to build numerous relationships with a variety of players on different levels.
He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played Class A ball for them in Butte, Montana in 1981 and 1982.
'I think he was drafted as a first baseman and a pitcher,' recalled Bertolino. 'As a matter of fact, I remember the day he found out.
'We were playing a game, and his dad was home waiting for the call. When he found out, his dad drove out to the game, came out on the field and gave Dave a big hug.'
Hoff, a graduate of Apollo-Ridge High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, has played with a lot of former pros, including his old roommate in the minors, Bill Wegman, who was a major leaguer for 10 years.
A few of 'at least 20' other professionals that Hoff has known or played against include Randy Ready and Sid Fernandez.
'But to be honest, I was a Class A player and not any better than that,' said Hoff, who decided to follow a career in the health care profession after going through his own collegiate sports injuries.
'When I was in college, every year I still managed to play at least one game for West Lebanon,' said a loyal Hoff.
At 41, Bertolino said that Hoff is an excellent role model who provides the 'younger' players with plenty of guidance.
'I've had to learn that pitching isn't just throwing the ball hard,' said Hoff. 'You've got to keep the team in the game behind you.'
Hoff explained that if a pitcher gives away too many walks or base hits, it only makes things harder for the his teammates. 'Fortunately I have a great defense to back me up.'
'I think last year we had at least six ex-minor league ball players on our team,' said Hoff proudly. 'I think we've had the best sandlot baseball team on the field in the last six years. More than anybody in the Indiana County League.'
Hoff sometimes wonders what it would be like if he would have had gone beyond Class A ball. 'But no matter where you play, you have to play for the love of the game.' he said.