01/26/11 12:18 PM EST
Marathons nothing new to Marlins GM Hill
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
A former two-sport standout, Hill has experienced hearing the roar of 60,000 at a Harvard-Yale football game, as well as the thrill of collecting four hits on a professional baseball field.
You can also add "Marathon Man" to the 1993 Harvard graduate's list of achievements.
The 39-year-old, who is entering his fourth season as Florida's GM, was one of several members of the organization to run the New York City Marathon this past November.
Setting a personal goal of eclipsing the four-hour, 30-minute mark, Hill finished in 4:26:45.
"You're feeding off the energy," Hill said. "There are 44,000 people running this race with you. That's a completely new experience. It's something completely different from football or baseball.
"I'd say the closet thing for me was the Harvard-Yale game. Going out there with 60,000 people roaring, screaming and yelling, you sort of fed off that energy. This was 44,000 that you were running with. I don't even know how many people lined the marathon route as we ran."
Thousands more stood by urging and encouraging.
"There was music playing," Hill said. "If you were dragging, there were always people giving you cheers."
Being part of running a Major League team presents its own set of challenges. Performing those daily duties while still finding the time to train and complete a marathon is another example of Hill maximizing the minutes in his day.
Hill is entering his ninth season in the Marlins' organization. Working closely with president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, he is part of one of the most respected front offices in the league.
A running back in football, Hill was steered into professional baseball. He was selected by the Rangers in the 31st round of the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. Success came immediately, but it didn't last long.
In his first professional baseball game, he went 4-for-4 with two doubles.
A Cincinnati native, Hill remembers his name was mentioned in the "Down on the Farm" section of the Sunday newspaper after he debuted with four hits.
"It all went downhill after that," he said.
His playing career advanced as high as Class A in the Rangers' and Reds' Minor League systems.
Once he realized he wasn't regarded as a top prospect, Hill made the transition into player personnel development.
He moved up the ranks in the Rockies' and Rays' organizations before joining the Marlins.
By the time he was in his mid-30s, Hill wasn't thinking about competing in athletic endeavors until he was inspired to do some running. A few years ago, Marlins president David Samson achieved Ironman status after he finished the world-famous Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
"Seeing what David Samson went through, with his training, his preparation, it was an inspiration for a lot of people in the office," Hill said. "The fact that I am a former athlete and I let my training and weight get away from me, I just thought it was a great opportunity to get back into something competitive."
New York was Hill's third marathon. He previously ran in Miami and Boston.
"In any type of competition, the biggest competitor that you are up against is yourself and your own mental capacity," he said. "For me, I consider the biggest challenge running, because I never enjoyed running. I always played sports where you ran in bursts. You never did anything with endurance over a long period of time. Just the thought of doing anything for more than four hours never even crossed my mind."
During his football and baseball days, Hill was used to team success.
"When I was able to complete Miami and cross the finish line, it was such a huge sense of accomplishment, because it was something so foreign to me," Hill said. "It was something out of my comfort zone."
Preparation for the New York City Marathon began last June, during the middle of the Marlins' season.
Hill logged more than 550 training miles in four months to be ready for the rigors of NYC. At the time, he was running anywhere from 30 to 50 miles a week, which is a main reason why he dropped 18 pounds.
Hill, Samson, Beinfest, vice president of communications and broadcasting P.J. Loyello and equipment manager John Silverman represented the Marlins at the marathon in New York.
"I did a lot of my training with David," Hill said. "I tried to schedule it early in the morning. All of our long runs were on Saturday morning. I would get up at 3 or 4 in the morning, because to run 20 miles, you're dedicating 3 1/2 hours."
In the middle of the summer, the aim was to rise and run before enduring the scorching Florida heat.
By keeping an early training schedule, Hill also was able to take care of his preparation without interfering with his job.
"A lot of times with the running, it was just a time to gather your thoughts and think about everything," Hill said. "We'd talk about our team -- getting perspective of our team and what direction you may want to go with the ballclub. We were able to talk through any number of situations as it related to our team.
"We were training during the Trade Deadline. You talked about players that you like -- players you may focus on as your looking to improve the ballclub. As you are training, you are hoping to be competing for a playoff spot. But you're thinking about your callups and introducing your young players into the club. We were thinking about when to call up Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison."
In many ways, the time pounding the pavement presented a chance to clear Hill's mind. For those few hours jogging, he was free from his mobile phone. His main objective was to get his hours in while being home by 8 a.m. to take his children to school.
The buildup on race day reminded Hill of the transition from Spring Training to Opening Day.
"It's hard to imagine that you're excited to get out there and get going, and [you are going to] beat your body up for 4 1/2 hours, but it's something that, with any type of competition, you put in the work and you're completely confident that you're prepared," Hill said. "You're excited to face the challenge head on. The same thing with Spring Training. You're putting in all the hours, the work, the batting practice. When you get up there on the chalk line for Opening Day, you've got goose pimples. That's the exact sort of feeling when you know it's time for the race.
"It's competition. And in this particular competition, you're not trying to beat Yale. You're fighting against yourself. I felt 100 percent prepared. I tried to just pace myself and just make sure I stayed within myself, and [I tried to] do everything possible to meet my goal."
Set to turn 40 this year, Hill hasn't ruled out running any more marathons. For now, he is taking a break.
"I won't say I'm retired," he said. "But I'm on hiatus."