Alumnus Trey Hillman recently landed a job that only 29 other men share: manger of a Major League Baseball team.
In October the Kansas City Royals selected Hillman to turn around their struggling franchise. The team has lost at least 100 games three of the past four seasons and last won the World Series in 1985.
"This is a wonderful blessing and a great opportunity to build a winner in Kansas City," he said. "I'll be joining an organization with tradition and pride while working with individuals who share my vision for success."
Hillman, 44, has spent the last five years managing the Nippon Ham Fighters, who won the Japan Series in 2006 and advanced to the championship round last year. The Foreign Sportswriters of Japan named him the 2006 Japan "Sportsman of the Year."
The Cleveland Indians drafted Hillman out of UT Arlington, but he never rose higher than Double-A. He retired from playing but stayed in the game as a scout and minor league manager, winning three Manager of the Year awards in the New York Yankees' farm system.
After a stint as director of player development for the hometown Texas Rangers, he returned to managing, in Japan in 2003. In fall 2006 he interviewed for managerial positions with the Rangers, San Diego Padres and Oakland A's but returned to Japan to help the Fighters defend their title.
He succeeds Buddy Bell, who completed the season with Kansas City after announcing in August that he would step down as manager.
"There is not a more qualified person out there to lead," Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore said of Hillman. "He's a great man of character. I always felt if you want somebody to lead, to evaluate character, they have to have character themselves."
A 1992 inductee into the UT Arlington Athletics Hall of Honor, Hillman was an all-Southland Conference infielder three times during his playing days (1982-85). His .442 batting average as a senior is still a single-season school record.
Former UT Arlington baseball coach Butch McBroom calls Hillman "an outstanding college player who gave you everything he had the whole time he was on the field."
An Arlington native, Hillman attended Sam Houston High School and earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport studies from UT Arlington in 1991. His father, Royce, lives in Arlington, and two sisters live in the area.
"He's worked hard for this," Royce Hillman said. "He's always been successful, but he's always wanted to manage in the major leagues."
Hillman and his wife, Marie, have two children and live in Liberty Hill, Texas. Look for an in-depth profile in the spring/summer 2008 issue of UT Arlington Magazine.
— Jim Patterson
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