So this post was supposed to be a nice lead-in to Rich Hill's first start with the A's. Well, the baseball powers-that-be and Sonny's bout with food poisoning made sure that would not be the case. C'est la vie!
Rich Hill has been on every team. Every team and then some. He's been on so many teams I haven't even heard of some of them. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but only slight. The A's will be the eighth major league roster Hill's name has graced and his 25th team overall, when you include minors and independent league ball, and that's not even counting college. He's been signed by the Red Sox organization three times. In 2011, he underwent Tommy John surgery. In 2015, he had run out of major league teams to play for and ended up signing a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
Everything has been telling Rich Hill to stop playing ... except himself.
In early 2014, Hill had been bounced up and down like a human basketball from team to team, league to league, to every level of the minors imaginable, when the unthinkable happened. His second son, newborn Brooks Stephen Hill, passed away at Mass General hospital just a month after Rich signed with the Red Sox for the second time. Hill clung tight to what he had -- his wife, his 2½-yo son, Brice, and baseball -- and forged on as he was thrown around to two other organizations in the same year.
The Nationals scooped him up with a minor league contract at the beginning of 2015, and released him in the middle. All seemed lost for the lanky lefty when he made the decision to sign with the Long Island Ducks at the age of 35. That's when the movie reels started to turn. (Note: There is already a completely unrelated documentary called Rich Hill that has nothing to do with baseball, so a different title will be needed for any future biopic!)
As many of you know, independent league ball is a place for those with no hope or those too stubborn to have lost it. It's where you go only if you have a deep, dear love for the game you're not willing to let go of. And if you're one of the lucky few to get snagged out, you're sure as heck not doing it at 35.
On August 14th, the Red Sox signed Hill for his third stint with the team. It was a minor league deal, and somehow, inexplicably, he was back in a Red Sox uniform on September 8th. In his first Major League start in six years, Hill pulled out his devastating curveball and pitched a scoreless seven innings while striking out 10. He only gave up one hit and a walk. Later, on September 25th, Hill pitched a complete game two-hitter, putting up 10 K's for the third game in a row.
Over those four games with the Red Sox, he posted a 1.55 ERA and 36 K's, only giving up five earned runs.
On November 17th, 2015, the A's penned him to a one-year, $6 million deal.
With every force Hill has fought through, he has remained optimistic, beaming like a baby in each and every one of his countless team photos.
It's been a long journey to Oakland. The 6'5", 220-pound Hill originated from Milton, Massachusetts, a freshman on their varsity high school baseball team, one of four in history to pull off the feat. He took his arm to the Michigan Wolverines, opting out of his selection by the Reds in the 1999 draft to go play college ball instead. Finally, he was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2002 draft and sent off on his adventure. Since then, he's held tight to the things he loves. Hill married his high school sweetheart in 2007, and the couple welcomed their first child, Brice, in 2011.
And as a footnote, it's totally notable that Hill pulls off a pretty solid Kip impression (from Napoleon Dynamite). Maybe it's time for that to make a comeback, too!