Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hillman's introductory press conference met with international approbation

What I can tell you is that I trust Dayton Moore.
--Tom Fornelli,

After the progress Dayton Moore created this year, I'll trust him.

--Corban, Corby and the Royals

Of all the words that have been written and said, only these from The Man himself -- the namesake of this blog -- really matter:

Dayton Moore: This is a fun day, this is exciting for us.... We had a very thorough evaluation. We knew the type of individuals that we needed to speak with to lead our baseball team. And when I met with Trey, I knew right away that this guy was special. He has a passion to lead, he is a great person, somebody who gets it, respects the game in all the right ways and somebody who is regarded as one of the finest baseball men in the game today, and I can't tell you how proud I am to be associated with him and his trust in the Kansas City Royals. So without any further ado, I want to introduce our next manager, Mr. Trey Hillman.

And like so, to thunderous applause, the shrieks of women, full-throated serenades and a rainshower of bouquets, the new era began.

A few sound bites from Mr. Hillman, who spoke at length without the aid of a teleprompter or notes:

I hope you hear it in my voice, I hope you see it in my face through the jetlag, guys: my excitement and my passion for being named the Royals' new manager. I really couldn't be any happier today.

The Royals have graciously invited me into the fold for leadership on the field. And for someone I've never met before, until a week ago when we hit the interview process and Dayton Moore and Renee Francisco made the effort to come all the way to Japan and find if we had a relationship match, I've just been walking on cloud nine ever since. It's been wonderful. We do match up, I know that in my heart and my head, and this is something that I want from the standpoint of a brotherhood relationship with my general manager. I believe that's something that has to happen to build and maintain the integrity of championship-caliber baseball at the Major League level.

I'm a hungry guy. I do not like to lose. I like to start from the ground up and build, and build in such a way where it's going to be maintained for many years to come. I'm a long-haul guy too. I'm a loyal guy. I'm bleeding Royal blue already. And I'm thrilled. Thrilled to be here.

Question, "What did you know about the Royals a week ago, and what do you know more about them now?" I knew this one was going to come up. All I can do is be honest with you. I gotta tell ya, when I was playing college baseball in Arlington, Texas, for the University of Texas-Arlington, 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 the ballgame to be around big league players and to get as much atmosphere as I could at the Major League level. And it was wonderful being on the visiting side because I got to see the differences coming in and out of the old Arlington stadium. I grew up there because my father worked out there in the summers -- he was a coach and a junior high principal. I'd grown up at that ballpark. Now as a college player, when the Kansas City Royals came in town, I was down in a three-point stance. I couldn't wait. I'm unpacking Willie Wilson, U.L. Washington, George Brett's bag. I was more excited about unpacking the bags of the Kansas City Royals when they came into Arlington Stadium than any other opposing team in 1983 and 1984 when I worked down there.... And that's the simple truth, because of the interest in Kansas City Royal baseball. The success level, their attitude when they walked through the door -- they knew they were going to win. That was something that you sensed. I understand the master plan now and why I got excited about that when I did. It took a while to come full circle, but here we are. So this is, more so than I could ever express, a tremendous honor to be associated with this organization.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, the Royals have a legitimately good chance to duplicate the success of the 2007 Rockies in two years, and if you're not on board now, you may, like all these Rockies fans, get shut out in the cold when glory returns in the form winning baseball in Kansas City.

I'm all for this hire, especially if, as it seems, Trey and Dayton are spiritual kin. Joe, how do you feel?

Why do they love Hillman? Easy. They love his baseball intelligence; it’s apparent any time he talks about the game. They love his dedication to baseball. They love the way he relates to people of different backgrounds and brings players together.

Perhaps more than anything, they love his ability to adjust to any situation. Five years ago, he went to Japan, to a second-division organization — the Nippon Ham Fighters. Hillman did not know the language. He did not understand the culture. He was a certain kind of manager then; a big-inning, get-on-base, Moneyball kind of manager (the king of Moneyball himself, Billy Beane, has gushed over Hillman). Only that style didn’t work for him there. Japanese baseball is different. The team mostly lost for three seasons.

So what did Hillman do? He changed. He asked his players for input (they asked him to please make practices longer and harder; yeah, it’s different over there). He helped make the Fighters into an aggressive, attacking, bunting, scrapping team. And last year, the Fighters won the Japan Series. No team in the world, perhaps, played better fundamental baseball than Hillman’s Fighters. This year, the Fighters are in the Japan Series again, even though they are by most statistical accounts the country’s worst offensive team.

POSTSCRIPT: At any time this season -- especially since, oh, June 19 -- did you catch yourself wondering, "Hey, whatever happened to that KC Star-endorsed Royals blogger? You know, the one who lives in Atlanta?"? Or, "Why hasn't this KC Star-endorsed blogger written anything in four months?"?

Well, turns out he's just been really busy. Like, really, really busy -- "regular hate mail, work(my real job) work(my secondary job(freelance writer) or procrastination" -- you know, stuff none of us ever have to deal with whenever we feel like kicking back and enjoying our "two games a week."

Anyway, he's back. Just thought you should know.

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