In just his second full season in the big leagues, second baseman Aaron Hill has established himself as one of the core foundation players the Blue Jays will need to move to the next level.
In his first season and a half in Toronto, Hill bounced around the infield, playing well at shortstop and second base and even at third base during his first season. Indeed, it was at third where he made his debut in May 2005 in place of injured Corey Koskie, less than two years after Hill had been drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft, 13th overall, out of Louisiana State University.
This season, settled in at second base, he has proven a key contributor.
For Jays fans who lamented the loss of defensive star Orlando Hudson a year ago, Hill has flashed some eye-opening leather. And this past April, while the Jays offensive machine was stalled, Hill was the catalyst, hitting .313 with five homers and 20 RBIs, earning player of the month honours from the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers of America.
SUN MEDIA: Name somebody who has affected your career who probably doesn't know it.
HILL: I have a feeling he does know it, but my biggest influence was my old college coach Smoke Laval. He was a huge influence on me, taught me a lot about baseball and about life. I don't know for sure, but my gut tells me he probably takes some pride in the success I've had.
SUN MEDIA: What was your last job not in baseball?
HILL: It wasn't that long ago, maybe two, three years, back home in Visalia (Calif.). My friend Shane Costa who plays for the Kansas City Royals and I worked for Shane's dad who has a renovation business. Shane and I were the demolition team. We'd go into a building with hammers and everything and demo the whole place, then take it all to the dump. We just had a blast. Well, actually we loved tearing it apart but picking up the trash wasn't a lot of fun.
SUN MEDIA: It's a big moment in a crucial game and you're on deck. Who do you not want to see on the mound?
HILL: Nobody. It doesn't matter. If you're afraid to face somebody, no matter the situation, then your chances of getting a hit are slim and none. I don't care who's out there, there should be no intimidation factor.
SUN MEDIA: Who's your best friend in baseball?
HILL: Shane Costa has been my best friend since we were about eight years old. We grew up together in Visalia and we're still best friends.
SUN MEDIA: I'm giving you front row tickets and backstage passes -- OK, I'm lying, but humour me -- to any concert, anywhere in the world. Who are you going to see?
HILL: Without a doubt, Metallica. I'm a huge fan. Old school rock 'n roll. That's the ultimate for me, right down front. Do I have two tickets? I'm taking Donovan Santos, our strength and conditioning coach.
SUN MEDIA: What's the best advice you ever received?
HILL: My dad always told me to stay humble. Everyone can handle the ups but it's how you handle yourself when you're down. I guess the one piece of advice in that area that still sticks with me is "I shouldn't be able to tell if you were 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 after the game."
SUN MEDIA: What's your most treasured material possession?
HILL: My guitar.
SUN MEDIA: You are commissioner of baseball for a day. What's one thing you would change?
HILL: I would change the rule that says you don't get credit for an RBI on a double play ball. Runners on first and third, you hit into a double play, the run still counts, so I don't see why you don't get the RBI. I guess that's not much of a change but that's what I would do.
SUN MEDIA: You're having friends over for dinner and you're the chef. What's on the menu?
HILL: It has to be a barbecue. Probably some kind of chicken, regular food, nothing fancy, just casual. I'm not a big gourmet chef or anything but I'm not intimidated in the kitchen.
SUN MEDIA: You can get tickets to any sporting event. Where are you headed?
HILL: The Masters. I guess it's something we've all seen on TV but to actually be there would be so cool.
SUN MEDIA: Who has had the greatest influence on who you are and what you believe?
HILL: My mom. My dad, too, but more my mom. She's the one who instilled all the right instincts in me. It's not always about what you want, but about what's right. That's from her.
SUN MEDIA: What's the last book you read?
HILL: I just finished it: The Last Templar. It's a novel but it's based in real history. That's the kind of book I like, something that brings real history into the fictional story line.
SUN MEDIA: What's on Aaron Hill's iPod?
HILL: Everything. I mean everything. I must have 8,000-10,000 songs. Every style of music, just about any artist you can think of. I've even got songs in different languages ... Chinese, Spanish. You name it, it's on my iPod. And, of course, my old standards by Metallica.