Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Rich Hill And Me
by Phil Bencomo
I like Rich Hill.
Since his first big league start in late July of 2005, a game I attended, I've liked him. Stumbling upon him after the game, only half-sure of who he was, as he headed to the player parking lot, and then getting an autograph probably has something to do with it.
But thinking about it, much of why I so enjoy watching Hill on the mound, and why he's my Current Favorite Cub, has to do with me. I see him on the mound and something clicks: I see myself.
His build is like my own: Long and lean, tall and thin (though the 6'5'' Hill has got me beat by an inch or so). But it goes beyond that.
He pitches just like I used to. I didn't have an overpowering fastball, which meant I was given little respect by players and coaches – until after the game, that is. All I heard from the opposing dugout at the start of each game was, "Move up in the box!" But the next time through the order, it was, "Watch the corners," because I could change speeds and throw strikes better than anyone in the league. I lived and died with my ability to keep hitters off balance, much like Hill, and it worked well.
Then there is his demeanor. Quiet and unassuming, Hill doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve like Carlos Zambrano. I've always been the same way: Calm and reserved. When Hill got fired up after striking out Prince Fielder on a nasty, sidearm breaker, it was one of the few times I've seen Hill look excited on the mound, and it reminded me of my own rare outbursts.
And I can completely relate to Rich's hitting woes (.128/.150/.154 career line). I wasn't quite that bad, but I was never much of a hitter. Pitching remains my first love, and for good reason.
* * * *
On that note, I should mention that I've been told I look like Matt Clement sans goatee, who was, perhaps not so coincidentally, my favorite Cub player during his tenure with the team...
* * * *
I pass along this article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal about Jeff Samardzija and the Single-A Daytona Cubs, sent in by reader joejoejoe. Samardzija threw five innings in his debut, allowing one run on five hits.