Opting out of season never crossed Hill's mind

Cancer survivor, teammate López will play in 2020 despite high-risk situations

July 1st, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Less than five years ago, Royals left-hander stood in front of a mirror after having lost 70 pounds because of chemotherapy. He was in disbelief.

"I looked and said, 'Who is this guy?'" Hill said. “I was just bones.”

It was late in 2015 and Hill had finally completed eight months of chemo after being diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, the same cancer that had taken his father when Hill was 17.

Now, as MLB players across the game ponder the risks of returning to play amid the coronavirus pandemic, Hill told MLB.com it was an easy decision for him.

“I’m playing,” Hill said. “I’m not opting out.”

Hill was tested for COVID-19 last weekend and the results were negative.

“I know there are people worried about me,” Hill said, “but honestly I don’t feel that high risk. I take care of myself through nutrition and working out. I never really considered opting out. I know that’s an option but I’m not going to do that.”

Royals medical people and Hill’s physicians have cautioned him of the risk.

“They weren’t trying to freak me out,” Hill said. “They just wanted me to be aware. Honestly, I don’t feel that my immune system is weakened or compromised.”

Aside from being a cancer survivor, Hill also has one other concern: He has Lynch syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer, particularly cancers of the colon.

“I know what’s at stake,” Hill said. “It’s not like I’m ever going to be reckless. I’m going to be cautious, probably even more cautious than anyone. But I’m more worried about other people. I worry about my mom, who is 59, kind of right on the edge of being at risk, and my grandma.

“But I know we’ll be cautious and as safe as possible.”

Hill spent much of the MLB pause in the Phoenix area, rooming with former Royals left-hander Matt Strahm. Hill then went to work out at the Royals’ facility in Surprise, Ariz., until it was shut down.

During that time, Hill worked out frequently with right-hander .

Hill said López, too, decided not to opt out, though Lopez has a son who has battled two chronic conditions essentially since birth.

López’s son, Mikael, suffers from Familial Mediterranean Fever and Crohn’s disease, a combination that frequently causes abdominal pain, fevers and inflammatory bowel disease. Mikael requires daily injections filled with multiple medications.

“Jorge is one incredible guy,” Hill said. “You can tell a person’s character about how much they have to go through, and Jorge has been through so much with his son. But he has handled it to the best of his ability.

“Jorge is a strong person. He doesn’t show it, all the heartache he goes through with his son. It speaks to his character.”

But Hill said he and López will look out for each other.

“I have been so cautious since this all started,” Hill said. “I haven’t been out; or anywhere, really. I go to the grocery store maybe once or twice a week out of necessity. But that’s it. I’ll be careful. We all will.”