Hillman has baseball in his blood
New Royals manager grew up watching Texas Rangers play
KANSAS CITY -- Trey Hillman practically grew up at old Arlington Stadium. His father, Royce, sold tickets there for the Texas Rangers and Trey tagged along.
"He'd go out there with me, hit baseballs and be all over the stadium," Royce Hillman said. "I just hoped he'd survive."
When Hillman grew into a baseball player at the University of Texas-Arlington, his involvement expanded.
"I took a job in the visiting team's clubhouse for no money -- picking up sweaty jocks and towels and hanging clothes up and unpacking bags and watching BP on the field and sneaking into the dugout at the end of the tunnel during a ball game -- to be around big league players and get as much atmosphere as I could," Hillman said Monday at a news conference.
"When the Royals came to town, I couldn't wait. I was unpacking Willie Wilson's, U.L. Washington's, George Brett's bags. I was more excited about doing it for the Kansas City Royals than any other team. That's just the simple truth because of the interest in Kansas City Royals baseball and their success level. Their attitude when they walked through the door -- they knew they were going to win. That was something you sensed."
So now he's come full circle and, as the Royals' new manager, will try to instill that sense of winning into the 2008 players.
Hillman is a family guy and, at Monday's session, he was accompanied by wife Marie, his father and his two sisters, Sharla and Sharolyn, as well as family friend Jim Grossman.
It was because Hillman wanted to give his kids, T.J., 14, and Brianna, 11, the chance to attend school near their Liberty Hill, Texas, home that prompted his decision to leave Japan after this season. He decided on the move last July.
Marie Hillman left Japan in August to enroll the children in school.
"T.J. wanted to come home and play football," she said, adding though that baseball was "his true love."
Brianna plays softball and is a gymnast.
Hillman's mother passed away two years ago, but having most of the family clan with him in KC pleased him.
"That's big for me because family is very important," Hillman said. "And I'd be remiss if I didn't say that [is] one of the centerpieces of my philosophy in managing -- it's got to be a family effort."
He met part of his playing family in the clubhouse on Monday morning. Mark Teahen, John Buck, Gil Meche, David DeJesus, Joey Gathright and Alex Gordon all stopped by to say hello.
"We just met briefly for a little talk," Buck said. "Just a couple of casual stories about Japan. It was pretty laid-back."
Hillman, although he wore No. 88 in Japan, was outfitted with Royals uniform No. 22.
"It was Dad's football number, 22," sister Sharolyn Clark said. "Trey always wears that when he can."
Royce Hillman wore that number as a quarterback for West Texas State in the 1957 Tangerine Bowl against Mississippi Southern.
"I threw three touchdown passes," he said, then grinned. "No, I'm just kidding. But we won, 21-14."
His son's name is something of a number, too.
"He was 'Trey' because he was the third child to come along," Royce Hillman said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.