A whole new ball game
Former baseball standout lands player development position with Texas Rangers
That smile on Trey Hillman's face has a Lone Star glint these days.
The UTA middle-infielder from 1982-85 has been named director of player development for the Texas Rangers after spending 13 years in the New York Yankees organization.
"Thirteen years with the New York Yankees was a great training ground, but I also felt like it was time for me to move on to other things. For the Rangers to put their confidence in me, never having had this position elsewhere, that's exciting."
-Trey Hillman ('91 BA)
"The Rangers opportunity presented itself, and I feel very blessed to have been their choice," he said.
Hillman will oversee the team's entire minor-league system, providing both on-field instruction and helping make decisions concerning managerial and coaching staffs, and player movement throughout the organization.
"We were looking for someone with experience at all levels," said Grady Fuson, Rangers assistant general manager for scouting and player development. "Trey played in college and the pros, scouted for a short time and has managed up and down the farm system."
Minors to majors
It will be quite a change for Hillman, who spent the last 12 seasons managing Yankees farm teams. Hillman, who also spent one year as a coach in the Yankees organization, won three Manager of the Year awards and guided his teams to three first-place finishes.
For the past three years, he managed the Yankees' AAA affiliate, the Clippers, in Columbus, Ohio. His club won the International League title in 1999 and finished second in 2000 when he was named the league's Manager of the Year. The Clippers also finished second last year, but the Yankees decided to overhaul the staff, and Hillman was slated to be reassigned.
"Thirteen years with the New York Yankees was a great training ground, but I also felt like it was time for me to move on to other things," he said. "For the Rangers to put their confidence in me, never having had this position elsewhere, that's exciting."
Hillman, who was inducted into the UTA Athletic Hall of Honor in 1992, was named to the all-Southland Conference team three times. He played shortstop his first two years at UTA, then moved to second base the next two seasons. As a senior, he set single-season school and conference records with a batting average of .442. He also set UTA career records for hits and doubles.
"Trey was an outstanding college player who gave you everything he had the whole time he was on the field," said Butch McBroom, who coached Hillman at UTA. "He was an outstanding leader, very mature beyond his age."
From UTA, Hillman signed with the Cleveland Indians organization. After three seasons in the minors, bouncing between Class A and AA, he had the chance to become a major league scout.
"I knew that I wanted to have longevity in the game," he said. "In order to have that, I felt like the best thing to do was to get out of playing and take the scouting position. It's a decision I don't regret."
After a year scouting for the Indians, Hillman received another big break. Toward the end of the 1988 season, the Yankees were reorganizing their farm system and wanted him as a coach for one of their Class A affiliates.
He coached one year at Prince William and then managed the organization's Florida Instructional League team. The Yankees saw his potential and named him manager of their short-season Class A Oneota team in the New York-Penn League. Hillman guided that team to a first-place finish.
"I was fortunate enough to work with several players who are now household names like Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Ricky Ledee," he said. "I had all of those guys for bits and pieces of two seasons.
"Some of the biggest highs when I was managing at Triple-A were getting to tell a player that he was going to go to New York. Things like that are very exciting."
Hillman, who lives in Liberty Hill just north of Austin with wife Marie and children T.J., 8, and Brianna, 5, won't be able to spend all of his time in Texas. "I will be on the road a lot checking out the teams in Oklahoma City and Tulsa while also seeing the clubs in Savannah and Port Charlotte, but I'll get to spend a lot of time in my office."
And he'll be smiling all the way home.