For D-backs' Hill, big year a sign of being relaxed
Veteran second baseman was arguably club's best hitter in 2012
PHOENIX -- It is quite possible that at some point this offseason, D-backs GM Kevin Towers will reach out to Aaron Hill's representatives about a contract extension.
If that's the case, expect the second baseman to be all ears.
"I would love that, but that's out of my control," Hill said. "If they want to talk, that would be great. It's got to work on both ends, obviously. It's a business, too. It would be great, they know I'm open for anything. I'm just going to play. They know me."
What the D-backs know is that Hill is a baseball equivalent of a gym rat.
"He's bored if he's not playing baseball," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "I'm sure when he gets into the offseason, he's bored if he's not golfing."
Just how much Hill loves being at the ballpark becomes obvious when you look at his daily schedule during the season.
When the team is at home and if Hill's family is in town, he will go the ballpark at around 12:30 p.m. for a 6:40 p.m. game.
Oh, and if his family is not in town?
"I'll be opening up the place," Hill said of the clubhouse. "I don't know what else to do."
So what the heck does he do for six-plus hours before the game?
"I'll get here, unpack, eat, go in and get a 30- or 40-minute workout," Hill said. "Then after that, a protein shake and go watch video for 20 minutes or something. From there, I'll come hang out for a little bit, guys start showing up, then back in the cage, and then it's time for stretch. I kind of like it. It works for me."
It certainly has. The 30-year-old was arguably the D-backs' best hitter in 2012. He compiled a .302 batting average to go with 26 homers and an .882 OPS (on-base plus slugging), all while playing outstanding defense.
Hill was acquired by the D-backs from the Blue Jays in August 2011. After hitting .286 with 36 homers and an .829 OPS for the Jays in 2009, he had fallen off to a .655 OPS in 2010, and at the time of the deal, his OPS was .655.
The struggles led a lot of people -- none of them named Aaron Hill -- to wonder if 2009 was just a fluke.
"I never believed at all that I lost it," Hill said.
The change of scenery seemed to do wonders for him as he helped the D-backs in their run to the 2011 National League West title by compiling an .878 OPS.
Hill was rewarded following that season with a two-year contract worth $11 million.
The timing of the deal meshed perfectly with his decision to buy a house and relocate his family from Florida to the Phoenix area.
Hill and his wife Elizabeth have a 3-year-old daughter and are expecting a baby boy in November.
Going into this past season knowing that he was likely to be in Arizona for at least two years was a huge plus for Hill, mentally.
"For me, I don't like playing for a contract," he said. "I just like playing. I like my mind at ease. They gave me an opportunity for a two-year deal, and that just helps you relax, for me at least. Some people thrive on going to free agency, but I just want to play. I live a very simple life. I'm not worried about the future, all that stuff. It's just nice to be at ease and have my family happy."
If anyone in baseball knows Hill, it's Arizona shortstop John McDonald. The pair came over in the same trade from Toronto and played together beginning in 2006. In their careers, they have been in the same starting lineup together 500 times.
"Some guys, they're just excited to come to the ballpark," McDonald said of Hill. "He has a lot of fun doing that. He's a great baseball player. His mind is always in the game, it's always attuned to what's going on. He prides himself on being extremely prepared and a step ahead of what's going to happen in the game. It shines through in his play. There's no luck to that, it's all his habit and his work ethic and his drive to be the best second baseman in the game."
And while he at times can play the role of clubhouse curmudgeon, the truth of the matter is that Hill could not be happier with where his life is, both professionally and personally.
"There's only a short window of opportunity for us to do this," Hill said of playing. "You're going to miss it when you get done with it, so you take advantage of it. I always try to put things in perspective. Where you come from, what you're doing and how special it is to be doing what we're doing. I've got a great family. I've got a great job. Life's not too bad."