by Adonis Dees
GLENDALE, Ariz.— The city of Middletown, Connecticut, did not need a full year to honor Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill.
“I thought it was kind of interesting to recieve Model of the Year in January, 2017. We haven’t finished the year yet,” Hill joked. “But (it was) just a great honor and very humbling. Very grateful for that.”
Hill received the Role Model of the Year award from the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.
Hill was honored for his perseverance and reluctance to give up during pivotal moments in his life and career.
A few years ago, Hill was playing for the Long Island Ducks, an independent league team.
In two starts, he pitched 11 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts, and allowed only two hits and three walks.
“Time is the most precious thing to anyone who wants to be successful,” Hill said. “So you have to make the most of the moments that you have and the time that we have now.”
Going into his 13th big-league season, time has been on his side. But with time, also came trial and grief for the left-hander.
(Video by Delaney Wood/Cronkite News)
He suffered a shoulder injury in 2009. Two years later, Hill needed Tommy John surgery at 31 years old.
Three years later, in 2014, he endured tragedy — the death of his newborn son, due to multiple issues.
“The times of failure and the times of setbacks is what really test you,” Hill said. “So that’s really something that I’ve been able to get through and continue to really make the most of my time that I have, and put in the work.”
It took a strong will for him to push through adversity.
“Everybody has dreams of what they want to accomplish in life,” Hill said. “I think if you’re adamant about that and you are persistent, and you’re willing to do anything to pursue those dreams, then there isn’t anything that will get in your way.”
Hill worked his way back to the big leagues with the Boston Red Sox and a short stint with the Oakland Athletics before a midseason trade last year to the Dodgers.
Before the trade, Hill went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA for the A’s. He finished the second half of the season 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA for the Dodgers.
He signed a three-year, $48 million contract this offseason.
At 37, Hill has the best chance to win his first World Series championship. He and his teammates are of the same mindset as he enters his first spring training with the team.
The role model is growing closer to fellow pitchers.
“Rich is awesome,” ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “I think the world of Rich and what he’s been able to do and overcome and get to where he’s at.
“(I’m) excited to have him on our team, he’s been one of the best pitchers the last few years now, and (I’m) excited to have him for three more years.”
Hill also shares his wisdom with teammates on his style of pitching.
“I talked to him a lot about his curveball . . . I feel like he’s a fastball-curveball pitcher, (and) I’m a fastball-curveball pitcher,” left-hander Grant Dayton said. “So I can learn a lot from him, and already have.”
Rich Hill — with his life and his career — offers a lot to learn.