SCOTTSDALE — Aaron Hill is in his first spring training with the San Francisco Giants organization, but the veteran infielder already has learned what has made the Giants so successful.
“No one is better than the game,” Hill said.
The Giants clubhouse is stacked with veterans who have plenty of knowledge to offer their greener teammates. And they don’t hesitate to share it.
Hill said the difference between the Giants organization and others us that the team’s stars are never finished learning and perfecting their craft even though several have won three World Series championship rings in San Francisco.
“It’s pretty impressive how close-knit of a group these guys are,” Hill said. “They’re on the same page. They know what they have to do to be ready for a ball game, the attitude, the willingness to learn.
“I think everyone, not just the big league level but throughout the minors, bought into a certain way of baseball. You know, keep it simple. Play hard. Do the things you can control. And these guys, it’s evident when they come up.”
Hill has played 12 seasons in the major leagues and spent time with the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox in 2016. The Giants signed him in February to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
If he makes the Opening Day roster of the Giants, Hill will be 36-years old and playing for his fifth organization. Now in the chase for a roster spot, Hill feels just as excited to learn as the rookies.
“I’ve been blessed to spend the amount of time I have in the big leagues and to just be a part of this game,” Hill said. “You see the younger generation come up and they ask questions, I’ve been really enjoying, not necessarily teaching, but just talking baseball. You can always learn something no matter what, in any position or any role.”
Pitcher Tyler Beede, 23, is a member of the so-called younger generation. He said it’s not just the talent of the veterans that advances the theme of the Giants, it’s who they are off the field.
“I think the big difference between this organization and others is the chemistry in the locker room,” said Beede, who was reassigned to the Giants Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento. “The staff here really does a great job of making sure everyone is jelling and on the same page and learning from each other.
“When you can kind of hear that advice from people, it gives your game the edge and takes you to the next level and allows you to maybe incorporate it into your game.”
Hill has never stopped learning, either. His family has a photograph of him as a baby, still in diapers, holding a Wiffle Ball Bat. He is in the stance he still hits with today against some of the best pitchers in the majors.
“You know if you want something bad enough you have got to go work for it, nothing comes easy,” Hill said. “I think a lot of people at this level understood that, and you just always keep learning.”
And as if to prove the point, Hill started a game in left field this week, the first time he has played the position since his days at Louisiana State. He is a proven infielder, but his ability to backup in the outfield against left-handed pitching could make him more valuable.
Hill is the second oldest player in Giants camp behind 38-year-old Jimmy Rollins. The two boast careers that rookies dream of achieving. Yet, Hill said the two continue to share their experiences as they fight for their respective positions.
“That guy (Rollins), look at his career, I mean good grief…” Hill said. “It’s why he’s had the career he’s had. He’s always willing to learn.”