Baseball lifer Hill back in his element

Mariners' infield coach relishes return to in-person instruction

February 25th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Moments before the Mariners closed their preliminary meeting and hit the field for their first full-squad workout on Tuesday, manager Scott Servais yielded the floor. Infield coach Perry Hill was staring at his subjects in person for the first time in almost one year to the day, and he wanted to make a statement, literally and metaphorically.

“He was so fired up talking to the group, I thought he's going to hyperventilate,” Servais said. “Just talking to the group before we ever got on the field -- the excitement, the energy, the passion, the snide comments to keep everybody on their toes, it's high energy.”

The 68-year-old Hill fulfilled his coaching duties remotely last season because of health and safety precautions, but he returned to the club in person in Arizona on Feb. 12, the same day he received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. He will receive the second dose on March 7.

As a baseball lifer, Hill says the human interaction on a daily basis is his favorite part of the game -- the minute tidbits of clubhouse banter, the social atmosphere of watching batting practice just before the national anthem and, obviously, infield practice. Basically, Hill’s favorite part of the game is everything that leads up to it. Having been in the dugout since 1984, he is a man of preparation.

So, naturally, those were the aspects that he missed the most while he watched from his in-season home, which is across Lake Washington in Bellevue, Wash. He wanted to be close by in case protocols changed and he could return.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” Hill said. “Although I wasn't a part of the actual team in person, I followed all the protocols. I didn't go anywhere. I didn't go to any restaurants. I wore my masks when I did have to go to the grocery store. I followed all the protocols, just like as if I were there.”

Hill will tell you that he is more technology savvy than some might assume -- anyone who follows him on Twitter knows that. And in 2020, he needed that savvy in order to find innovate ways to communicate with players and install strategies. Hill collaborated with Mariners video coordinator Patrick Hafner daily, seeking slow-motion and multi-angle clips of infielders, which he would then share with players while injecting his insights.

The Mariners went on to become one of MLB’s most-improved defenses, thanks in part to the addition of first baseman and big steps forward from second baseman and . Hill took tremendous pride in Crawford transforming from a below-average defender to Gold Glove Award winner in less than two years. White also took home the hardware last year, giving the Mariners -- and Hill -- the most gold of any infield.

“I think Perry Hill deserves a lot of a lot of attention on this. He is really, really good,” third baseman said. “I've been very fortunate to have a lot of infield coaches, obviously, through the years and coaches in general. But he's pretty special at this.”

Hill is a favorite among his players, peers and fans for his boisterous attitude, vigorous work ethic and, above all, his acumen for his subject matter.

“[Hill] brings a certain sense of urgency and excitement,” Servais said. “He's loud. He's got a ton of energy. It's great to have him back.”

Paxton addresses Mather’s comments
Starting pitcher spoke publicly for the first time since the resignation of president and CEO Kevin Mather, who mentioned Paxton during the video that surfaced on Sunday. Specifically, Paxton addressed Mather’s comments on the left-hander’s free-agent negotiations.

“You know, that is frustrating, and I think that he didn't necessarily have his facts straight,” said Paxton, who agreed to a one-year, $8.5 million deal that includes $1.5 million in performance bonuses last Thursday. “I did have other offers, and I did have more lucrative offers. But I decided to come here, anyway, because this is where I want to be.”

“Obviously, what happened was disappointing, and some of the some of the things said were unacceptable. And I don't think that's who the Mariners are as an organization as a whole. And the players, what we've talked about is we need to make it about each other, you know, focus on playing for each other, playing hard for each other and for the fans. And we want to get better.

“We want to win here, and we're building that culture. And we think that this could really bring us together. And as we prop each other up, we’ve kind of just become an even more unified group moving forward.”