03/31/08 1:45 PM ET
Stateside opener a new thrill for Hillman
At the helm in Majors for first time after five Japan seasons
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
His debut in the Major Leagues came on Monday as he directed the Kansas City Royals against the Detroit Tigers.
"This is pretty cool for me," Hillman said in the dugout before the game. "I don't like to make it anything about me, but I won't deny it, it's a great honor. It's humbling and this is a cool day for me."
Hillman managed for 12 years in the Minor Leagues for the New York Yankees and then five more years in Japan. So he was asked about how long it took him to "get there."
"As far as I'm concerned, I got there, but it was on the other side of the world," Hillman said. "It's more special here, no doubt. The Opening Day excitement is very much the same as it was in Japan for the last five years. The big difference is I can understand and share in everyone's verbals, and that adds to the excitement."
The weather was bone-chilling during Sunday's workout at Comerica Park, but the temperature at game time on Monday was a relatively balmy 51, although the dawn came wet and cloudy.
"Wonderful conditions -- these are great," Hillman said. "Just where we are geographically, this could be a lot worse for Opening Day. There could have been a whiteout, a snowout, a rainout. It looks like we're going to get this one in."
Although the team buses for the ballpark left the hotel at 8 and 9 a.m. ET, Hillman and his staff left at 7 a.m. Compared to Spring Training, when he usually arrived at camp at 4:30 a.m., that was late.
"I woke up about 5:30," Hillman said. "I slept in."
"These are dreams-to-come-true days, no doubt," Hillman said. "After today we'll have the opportunity to experience it on both sides of the world, and this is cool, this is nice."
Hillman's family won't join him until the April 8 home opener at Kansas City against the Yankees, but they were watching.
"I've got family and friends locked into MLB.com and ordering Fox Sports Midwest and everything else," Hillman said.
"You know what? It'd be special if it was opening up in Waxahachie, Texas," he said. "Wherever. It's pretty cool wherever it is."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.