Byron Von Hoff

Von Hoff Named Waubonsee “Fabulous 40”

Waubonsee Community College has named Byron Von Hoff, seen here at the home field of the Batavia High School Bulldogs baseball team, as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
Sugar Grove — Sometimes the measure of a person comes not from how they handle success, but how they handle adversity. Byron Von Hoff has dealt with both with equal aplomb. An injury thwarted his budding professional baseball career, but Von Hoff went on to a long and successful career in the Army. Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor him as a “Fabulous 40” alumni.

As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.

A native of Batavia, Von Hoff had always been a strong athlete. He played baseball, basketball and football for the Batavia High School Bulldogs, winning regional and conference titles in baseball and basketball. The school had an unprecedented run of talent while he was a student there. He played on teams with ABA/NBA great Dan Issel and former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson.

The New York Mets selected Von Hoff as the first pick in the second round of the 1966 Major League Baseball draft. He pitched his first game as a professional baseball player for the Marion (Va.) Mets in Rookie League on June 16, 1966, just weeks out of high school. His major league fastball had him packing his bags for the Mets’ Class A team in Auburn, N.Y., after only four games, all of which registered as “W’s” for Von Hoff.

Von Hoff was a rising star in a Mets system that was packed with future star pitchers such as Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw. He roomed with Jerry Koosman while coming up in the minor leagues. LOOK magazine even profiled Von Hoff in June 1967.

In the off-seasons, Von Hoff came back to Batavia and attended Waubonsee.

“I came to Waubonsee near the college’s beginning,” he said. “It was a way to get a good education.”

Von Hoff didn’t fit into the mold of a “big man on campus,” even though he was a professional athlete.

“I always tried to keep a low profile,” he said. “I didn’t want to make a big deal. I was just a student and wanted to blend into the crowd as much as possible.”

Although he didn’t play baseball for Waubonsee, he did help out with the team as an assistant coach. He also focused on his academics more than he did while a high school student.

“Getting good grades at Waubonsee was a real accomplishment for me,” he said. “I was more mature and realized the importance of education. There were quite a few excellent instructors who helped me get back on course.”

After two seasons at AA for the Mets, Von Hoff advanced to the AAA Tidewater (Va.) Mets. Unfortunately, it was here his baseball career would end. On a close play at second base, Von Hoff slid in at the same time as the shortstop’s cleats met his throwing shoulder. Doctors told him he would have to choose another career. He had already joined the National Guard and ended up pursuing a highly successful 39-year military career in the U.S. Army. After the injury, he completed his bachelor’s degree in business at Northern Illinois University.

During his career, Von Hoff rose to become a deputy brigade commander, retiring with the rank of colonel. He served in a variety of locations including Panama and Poland. He became known as an excellent trainer of military techniques, which led to his high-profile assignment training Polish troops prior to Poland’s inclusion in NATO.

For all his success in life, Von Hoff is most proud of his family. He and his wife, Louise, live in St. Charles and have four grown children, Erich, Heather, Jennifer and Heidi.

“Without hesitation, I am extremely proud of all of my kids,” he said. “All four have graduated from college and have good careers.”

With his background in athletics, it is not a surprise that Von Hoff’s children were all athletes and sports fans as well. Although he is the lone White Sox fan in his family, he did enjoy taking his son to Comiskey Park to see his old roommate, Koosman, pitch.

Now retired from his military career, Von Hoff has returned to where it all began for him. He just completed his first year as an assistant baseball coach for the Batavia Bulldogs.