08/02/12 9:16 AM ET
Hill appreciating the good times with D-backs
Second baseman, thriving with Arizona, understands ups and downs of game
By Meggie Zahneis / MLB.com
Ask the D-backs' second baseman what it felt like to hit for the cycle not once, but twice (on June 18 and 29), and he'll have this to say: "It was nice to get a win in both games that it happened. It is much more enjoyable, obviously, when the team wins. It was pretty neat and something special to go through. Right now, I just want to get back to focusing on winning some ballgames."
Rather than dwell on the impressive individual accolades -- "Maybe it will set in more at the end of the season," Hill acknowledged -- No. 2 would much rather focus on getting his team to the playoffs. Speaking of which ...
Hill admits the D-backs -- who stood at 54-51 and 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Giants in the National League West after Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Dodgers -- have work to do.
"We have to start doing the little things," Hill said. "We really don't think we have played to our potential yet at all this year. If we could just string together a couple weeks or a month and just keep going, it's definitely possible [to make the postseason]."
What's the key to making the postseason? Hill says it's not trying to pretend you're something you're not.
"I think this team is trying really hard to be the team [from] last year," he said, referring to Arizona's 2011 division winner. "What guys need to realize [is] that no team is ever what you were in the past. This is this year and things are different, and you have to find that identity. And for us, it is to be a little bit more ourselves, don't try to do too much. I think a lot of guys put too much pressure on themselves and end up digging themselves in a hole.
"There's never a simple answer in baseball. Sometimes, as a hitter, you can do all of the right things -- you can have a perfect swing on the ball, the barrel on the ball and you still get out. The same thing with why aren't you winning? Well, there's a lot of little things we aren't doing right, and it's just a combination of things."
Nevertheless, Hill is having the season of a lifetime.
That's a fact underscored by his candidacy in the Final Vote for this year's All-Star Game. Hill didn't win, but don't feel too sorry for him.
"When they told me who the candidates were for the Final Vote, I figured going up against Chipper Jones [named an All-Star by way of Matt Kemp's injury while voting was under way] was going to be a little tough. It's an honor just to be put into that category. Maybe, hopefully, do it again next year," Hill said.
Indeed, baseball is a game of ups and downs, as Hill will attest.
"That's baseball. It's how you handle the downs and how you handle the ups. If you can come away from the game, knowing that you were the same person whether you were on your good days or your bad days, I think that shows some true character," Hill remarked. "I think a lot of guys should aim for. It is a game and you always have to try your best, but it's not always going to work out and it's how you handle yourself in those times."
For Hill, what might have been the lowest point of his career came when he suffered a concussion in 2008, due to a collision with then-Blue Jays teammate David Eckstein.
"It was one of the most difficult things I had to deal with," Hill said. "You know, as an athlete, you're used to if there is a problem, you go out and attack it. You try to deal with it. Unfortunately, with a brain injury, there's not a timetable, there's no one answer for why it happened, how long it's going to be [before you can return]. You feel alone, and doctors really don't have an answer. So the best thing for us was to relax and not do anything. In the end, it worked out, but it was tough to deal with it."
The year Hill spent sidelined with the concussion was a trying time. Did he ever think the injury was career-ending?
"I tried not to, but human nature is to put it in the back of your head. There were times I thought I was, because you hear all of the horror stories of guys that were hit and were never able to step on the field again," Hill said.
Now that he's back and thriving, Hill can't stress enough how seriously concussions are to be taken.
"I think it has been brought to light more in the last few years ... the seriousness of a head injury," he said. "It has been in the news a lot more lately. [Because of] the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) we have the new seven-day DL for a concussion, because for a lot of people, if you get out there too soon, it could really affect you.
"The competitive side of me wanted to get back on the field and I wanted to try to fight it and push through it. It's just tough, because you gotta know what's right for yourself, what's good for yourself."
Right now, Hill's thinking what's good for himself is to stay a Diamondback.
"You switch teams -- that's the name of the game nowadays. It's rare that you stay with the same team for a long time," Hill commented. "With Arizona, we are absolutely loving it. It's a great organization, I love the staff, the coaching staff, the manager. It's a new beginning, another chapter in our lives and we're looking forward to it."
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of 2011. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.