Rich Hill On Pitching In The World Series: 'A Couple Years Ago, I Was Using a Bucket In Independent Ball As a Toilet.'

League Championship Series - Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two

One of my favorite parts about the World Series, aside from the two best teams in baseball going head-to-head for all the marbles, is that this is the time of the year that the players with awesome stories finally get highlighted on a national stage. The one that comes to mind from last year would be the story of Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, who got to pitch in the World Series in front of his father who had been paralyzed a couple months prior. Tomlin threw four and two thirds scoreless innings in Game 3 of the World Series with his dad in attendance.

This year, I hope that same national spotlight falls on Rich Hill’s story, because it’s a great one. Making his major league debut in 2005, Hill bounced around NINE different organizations before he ended up with the Dodgers as a 36-year-old at last year’s trade deadline. He’s been released three times in his major league career, and granted free agency NINE times, never once making more than one million dollars in a season until the Oakland A’s signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal prior to the 2016 season. He was later dealt to the Dodgers where he completed his second best statistical season ever with his best season at the big league level coming almost a decade prior in 2007.

After garnering no interest from major league teams following his release by the Nationals in June of 2015, Hill had no other choice but to play indy ball for the Long Island Ducks that July. On top of having to cope with the loss of his infant son the year before, Hill had to work his way back onto the radars of major league teams in indy ball. Hill rebounded by signing a minor league deal with Boston in August. The left-hander got called up in September, made four starts with the Red Sox, and struck out 10 batters in each of his first three starts, posting a 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 29 innings.

Hill turned that four-start audition with Boston into that aforementioned one-year, $6 million deal with the A’s. In that one-year deal with Oakland, Hill had signed on to earn more money in that one season than he had earned collectively over his entire major league career to that point, doing so less than one year after he had been working out with his old American Legion team in Milton, Mass.

In typical A’s fashion, they knew that it was a low risk signing that either would’ve amounted to nothing — a no harm, no foul situation — or they hopefully would’ve had something that they could flip at the deadline for some prospects, and that’s exactly what they did. Since that first start with Boston in September of 2015, Hill has the third best ERA in all of baseball (2.65), trailing only his teammate Clayton Kershaw (2.02), and Kyle Hendricks (2.56) of the Cubs.

Hill was one of the feel good stories of this past offseason when he re-signed with the Dodgers for $48 million over three years, locking him down for his age-37, 38 and 39 seasons. If you don’t have a dog in the fight this World Series, and you don’t particularly care to root for teams that aren’t your own, perhaps you can root for certain players instead. And if you do, Hill’s name should be right at the top of your list. Sure, the Dodgers’ payroll is the highest in the league and they are a team that mostly everybody expected to reach the World Series, but Hill’s story is one that we can all root for.