Hillman, fans meet first online
New KC manager participates in Royals Relay Web chat
Royals fans had their first opportunity to chat with new manager Trey Hillman Tuesday during a Royals Relay online chat. Hillman talked about his coaching style and philosophy and said he wants his club to prepare for a 181-game season to raise expectations.
Hillman: Hi everyone, it's Trey. Thanks for having me on this afternoon. I'm ready for the first question.
KCFaninSEA: Mr. Hillman, first, welcome to the Kansas City Royals and good luck in your tenure. Myself and my associates over at royalsreview.com would like to know how different you feel your philosophy is from that of former manager Buddy Bell.
Hillman: I'm really excited to be here in Kansas City. Having been in Japan the last five years, I really don't have a working knowledge of Buddy's managerial philosophies. I have a ton of respect for him. I watched him growing up, he was one of my heroes. My simple plans are to manage to the strengths of the club and hopefully help us find ways to diversify ways of scoring runs.
technomatt: How do statistics, specifically sabermetrics, fit in to your managing style?
Hillman: Sabermetrics, I place a lot of value on them from the stand point of preparation and knowledge of history. But, there is still the major part of managing that has to be evaluating and thinking along with the situation at hand.
lh_bret: Any hints on free agents you all will be chasing?
Hillman: I know from the construction of the 2007 club that we have a lot of left-handed hitting, and I know that we have discussed the possibilities of trying to add right-handed hitting. However, those are issues that will be taken care of with Dayton Moore and the rest of the front office group. Our job on the field is to win with the pieces that ownership and our front office group work hard to provide for us.
roekid5: Over the past few years our situational hitting has been terrible, which is essential for a team without a lot of big hitters. Is that something you will address? How?
Hillman: It will be addressed daily with the hitting work that hitting coach Mike Barnett will implement with our daily hitting plan. But more specifically, it will be addressed before we play any outside competition in Spring Training with situational, controlled scrimmages.
arbrown24: How would you describe your managing style and philosophy? What will it take for the 2008 Royals to be successful in your eyes?
Hillman: My philosophy is passion for the game of baseball in its purest sense. High expectations in effort, fundamentals and unselfish team play would also be a huge part of my philosophy. As for style, I manage to the strengths of our personnel, but I do like to create movement on the basepaths because I know it causes disruption for the opposition.
GordonBOPS: Welcome to KC! What is your philosophy on balancing playing time for veterans vs. getting young players an opportunity to play?
Hillman: We are looking at preparing for a 181-game season and obviously I have to monitor bodies over the course of a long season, but my plan is to put the best capable pieces together every day to beat the opposition. I think a lot of clubs prepare for 162 games, but I don't want to prepare for that. I want to prepare for the maximum amount of games that can be played to raise the expectations. If we don't prepare for that, I believe we enter the season limiting our possibilities.
lh_bret: Have you had a chance to look at the Royals Minor League system? How's it look?
Hillman: I apologize, I have not gotten there yet, but I will. I will also stay in my box and be a support system, but my job is to run the Major League club. I do have plans to get to know all of the Minor League managers, coaches and trainers.
arbrown24: Much of your managing experience comes with the Yankees organizations. What do you see as some of the similarities and differences between the Yankees and Royals organizations?
Hillman: Not having managed in the American League, I think that the aspirations of both organizations are one in the same, but obviously with different dynamics. Our goal with Kansas City will be to get it back to that 10-year period to the way it was from 1976-85.
achen0707: Hello Mr. Hillman, welcome aboard. Based on what you've seen and know of the Royals, how would you assess our strengths and areas where we need improvement in 2008?
Hillman: Strengths include solid, young, energetic core group of position players. Pitching has greatly recently improved with many bright spots for the future just needing more game time and confidence for results to come.
royalretro: Glad to have you in Kansas City, Trey! If Dayton provides some more power in the lineup, would you rather play for the big inning or do you think you will still look to diversify the offense with small ball?
Hillman: I will continue to look for ways to diversify, simply because on any given night certain starting pitchers throughout the league, especially in the American League Central, can make it very challenging to sit back and wait for the three-run bomb. I love power as much as anyone, but you always have to try to have more in your arsenal just to combat quality starting pitching.
royalsnightly: What will you miss most about Japan?
Hillman: The relationships that I built that I won't continue to foster day-in and day- out because I'm not working there anymore. Also, a tremendous respect that the players have for the game and the fans in Japan.
rehamg: Do you think given the talent in the AL Central, and the youth on this team, that we will take a step back before we go forward?
Hillman: Great question, but not fair since I have not seen day in and day out the competition, I've only read about it. I can only say at this point that my mind will be set going into the '08 season that regardless of where we need strengthening, there should still be ways of hopefully closing the gap between us and our competition.
KingRoot: Will you use the Japanese methods of conditioning here? Do you think it would work here? I heard it is very different.
Hillman: Absolutely, no doubt it will work, especially with a Japanese-style agility program which is not dissimilar from what NFL players do to enhance and maintain lower half agility and athleticism. Bottom line -- we will put these guys in the best possible position to be successful, mentally and physically.
achen0707: What are your impressions of Dayton Moore and how do you see your working relationship with him over the next few years?
Hillman: Just an absolutely wonderful chance to work with someone that I had never known before the interview process and immediately was busting with as much passion as I feel on the inside about building relationships and winning championships in the baseball industry. I know it's going to be a wonderful working relationship, as well as personal friend relationship in getting to work with Dayton.
KingRoot: I have heard of managers and coaches in both college and professional ball getting fired when in reality, it might not have been their fault. Why did you chose this profession?
Hillman: Great question! Without getting too theologically based or infringing on anyone's spiritual convictions, I know this is what God intended for me to do and that was to be a leader in the great game of baseball. I believe the game of baseball mirrors exactly the game of life, with striving day in and day out to minimize our mistakes or deficiencies to ultimately do one thing, and that's win.
cityblue: When it comes to Boston, how are you going to play Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz?
Hillman: Very carefully because they are exceptionally gifted offensive players and hopefully catch them on bad days or when they're out of sync, because even the best guys have streaks when they don't have it clicking.
highyo: Have you done any homework on our current Royals? If so, who will be your leadoff man?
Hillman: I apologize at this time for not wanting to name names, but please stay patient as Dayton and his crew does their due diligence with all possible options in our roster for the 2008 season. I will, however, say in referring to leadoff man that he needs to be one that has OBP first and foremost in his mind and someone that can make the opposition nervous once on the basepaths.
canes2299: Rumor has it the Royals are bringing back the powder blues uniforms for the road. And I know this is going to ruffle a few feathers, but what is your take on bringing in Barry Bonds to the Royals in 2008?
Hillman: I'm not sure if that's in the plans, but if so, I'm all for it. It was hands down one of my favorite Major League uniforms while growing up with Major League baseball. As for Barry Bonds, it's not my decision. Dayton has done a wonderful job of keeping me informed with possible free agent acquisitions, however, Dayton fully understands that I trust the decision of his front office baseball operations staff in putting together the best possible roster for 2008 and beyond.
Hillman: This has been a blast, I've got time for a couple of more questions. I've got to get to my son's football practice. I've never seen him play a game in pads and I get to see his last game of this year this Thursday.
canes2299: With the Royals Opening Day opposition being the Yankees, will you have extra butterflies knowing you were a manager in their farm system?
Hillman: Extra butterflies? No. But there will be the obvious sentimentality for a baseball purist like myself in getting to manage the Kansas City Royals against the New York Yankees. For the home opener I plan on wearing pine tar as my anti-perspirant in honor of our great No. 5. It will also be a huge thrill for me when we go to New York to manage in Yankee Stadium, since the '08 season will be its last.
KingRoot: Who were your sports heroes growing up?
Hillman: Growing up in Arlington, Texas, the Major League player who spent the most time with me was Toby Harrah. I had the good fortune, because of my dad's role as a ticket seller, to get to Arlington Stadium early and Toby was always one of the first to arrive and he took the time to spend time with the little kid. Other heroes from my young days at Arlington Stadium were Mike Hargrove (who I later played for in the Indians' Minor League system), Jim Sundberg and Buddy Bell.
Jim2007: How will you prepare for Spring Training?
Hillman: Everyday! I've been either physically making written notes and/or mental notes since I got this job. Just last night I had a 30-minute conversation with Mike Barnett. I've already had countless phone calls with 40-man roster players starting to build relationships.
Hillman: Upon arrival in Surprise in February, my plan is to have no stone unturned in preparing for the '08 season. Thanks to all of you for all of the great questions and I'm anxious to be able to do this with y'all again.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.