Hill coaching son in Little League ... for now

May 6th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MILTON, Mass. -- It was a Monday night in late April, and a 44-year-old man emerged down a hill in the woods, through some bushes and thorns, in possession of a couple of foul balls.

A few hours later, this same man had a drag rake and was manicuring the field in relative solitude, just as the sun was going down on a pleasant spring day in New England.

In and of itself, there was nothing remarkable about these acts because Little League volunteers across the world do this type of thing every day during the season.

However, what made it noteworthy was that this volunteer has 90 Major League wins under his belt and pitched in a pair of World Series.

, now coaching his son Brice and the Reds of Milton’s Little League, is reveling in all of this, despite not being with a Major League organization for the first spring in two decades.

Make no mistake about it: Hill was not pushed out of the game he loves. In fact, he plans on returning and perhaps inching a little closer to 100 wins later this season.

In the offseason, Hill received three offers from Major League teams. Why didn’t he take any of them?

For one of the most precious reasons possible. Hill wanted to take part in Brice’s 12-year-old Little League season. Kids age out of Little League when they become teenagers.

“Yeah, a lot. Pretty much everything,” said Hill, when asked how much getting to coach Brice played into his decision to stay home for now. “I've only seen Brice play four games over the last three years or whatever. Getting the opportunity, knowing that it was his last year of Little League, that’s something that you can't get back.”

Hill is dressed for the occasion, wearing a Milton Reds cap, a red pullover (that actually says Red Sox on it) and gray sweatpants that from a distance beyond the chain-link fence don’t look that dissimilar to the baseball pants he’s worn for so many years. The Red Sox, who play their home games roughly 12 miles from where Hill coaches his son, are one of the 13 teams Hill has played for in his Major League career.

For right now, though, the Reds of Milton are the team Hill is focused on.

For Rich Hill, this whole thing is a trip, really. He serves as the team’s pitching coach and also coaches first base. And the game on this night is at the field Hill also pitched at when he was in Little League, some 32 years ago.

“Some of the only Little League pictures that I have are pitching on this field,” said Hill. “The window closes fast. Not only on a career, but also to be able to watch your son play. You don't realize it obviously at the time until you get to that point. I think I've been fortunate to get to that point.”

Now that the Little League season is in full swing, Hill knows he made the right decision.

“We’ve had great moments we’ve been able to share,” said Hill. “On my side, too, understanding that 12 years old is 12 years old. I think that's extremely important to understand, from not just the aspect of the dad but the coaching side. Just the teachable moments that come up are extremely important. So watching him be able to play and get that opportunity, this is the reason why I stayed home.”

There was one moment that solidified what a good decision it was.

“One of the teams he was playing for this spring, he hit a homer in his first at-bat,” said Hill. “It was really exciting to see the joy he got from that one swing.”

If this had happened last year, Hill perhaps would have seen that home run on FaceTime. But that doesn’t compare.

“You experience the feeling,” said Hill. “It’s like going to a Red Sox game. You buy the ticket for the emotion. You experience the feeling. So I’ve got the ticket, and now I get to see his emotions, so it’s great.”

Once Little League season is over, Hill plans on scratching that familiar itch. And he’s multitasking to be ready for when the time comes.

“I've been working out and throwing,” said Hill. “I’m continuing to progress and get ready for when that opportunity comes around to go and pitch. The idea is to be ready when that time comes.”