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February 28, 2008 – Bobby Hill Talks February 28, 2008

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.

Bobby Hill Talks: Newly re-signed Newark Bears second baseman Bobby Hill fondly remembers stepping into the batter’s box in 2005, ready to face off against Roger Clemens.

“Clemens was going for a strikeout record and I kept telling myself to do whatever I can, but just don’t strikeout,” Hill said, with a slightly humorous tone in his voice. “I was chasing pitches out of the strike zone, ones I normally wouldn’t go after, and luckily I didn’t strikeout.”

Clemens, Brad Lidge, Pedro Martinez. You name ’em, Hill’s faced ’em.

But Hill’s trip to the majors didn’t happen like most ballplayers. First, he had to play through a 132-game stint in Newark. That’s because the second-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox in 1999 chose independent baseball over going pro.

“After I didn’t come to terms with the White Sox, it was either go back to college or go the independent route. I choose the independent route because it worked for J.D. Drew.”

Hill may be the second player ever to get drafted, play independent ball and then sign with a team. (Drew and Hill shared agent Scott Boras, who also represents Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver, two former Atlantic Leaguers who choose the same path as Hill in 2005).

The Atlantic League presented Hill with the opportunity to play at the highest independent level in the country. With no reservations, he signed with the Newark Bears, a team that bolstered a lineup including Ozzie Canseco.

“Getting to play with Ozzie and other guys I followed growing up, and being only 21, it was a great experience,” Hill said.

For the Bears, Hill proved to be worth the contract he was asking for from the White Sox. The former University of Miami star hit .326 with 14 home runs, 82 RBI, 82 stolen bases and had a .422 on-base percentage. It was a performance that’s etched into the Bears record books to this day.

The Chicago Cubs took notice of Hill’s tremdous potential and selected him in the second round of the June 2000 draft, three rounds sooner than the California Angels did four years earlier.

From there, it was less than two years before he was in the bigs, appearing in 59 games for the Cubs in 2002. After a short stint with the team in 2003, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and eventually to the San Diego Padres. In all, Hill is a .262 career big league hitter with 58 RBI and six home runs. Not bad for a guy who spent most of his career as a pinch hitter, and only appeared in 249 games.

But last year, things changed for the California native. He was in camp with the Cubs, again, fighting for their wide-open second base job, when X-Rays were taken on his back. The Cubs didn’t like what they saw and voided his contract.

“I didn’t think (my back) was that bad, but when the X-Rays came back, they were worse than I thought,” Hill said. “I chose to get surgery on it rather than wait and try and play through it.”

Now, less than a year later, Hill is way ahead of schedule. The 29-year-old says he’s out to prove to all teams that his back is feeling great and he’s ready to go up against the next round of superstar arms the majors has to offer.

“My back feels as good as it did when I was in college. I don’t want to leave the game unless it’s on my terms. I want to prove that all those double-rehab days were worth it and I can still play.”

Hill hasn’t followed the league closely since he left seven years ago, but knows it’s changed.

“I can remember playing at a stadium where there was a party going on behind the dugout and very little stands,” Hill said, referring to Aberdeen.

Hill will be happy to find that the stadiums have drastically improved since his first go round with the Bears. So has the competition, which that suits the former big-leaguer just fine.

“People would ask my why I would go back, but they don’t understand, the Atlantic League’s comparable to Triple-A. In order to get back you have to face good competition and this league has some of the best.”

Hill is now ready to show his back is back, and his bat belongs — in a major league batter’s box near you. – Scott Stanchak

Ducks Add Six: The Long Island Ducks today added six names to their roster for the upcoming season. The returners are OF Kevin Haverbusch, OF Estee Harris, C Jamie Pogue and RHP Ben Grezlovski. The newcomers include, RHP John Searles and INF Dennis Donovan.

Searles has spent the last four seasons with the San Diego Padres organization, in Double-A. Meanwhile, Donovan is just 22-years-old and played for the Kansas City Royals organization last year. – SS

Camden Somewhat Unexpectedly Adds Two: (PR) The Camden Riversharks have agreed to terms with two more players, bringing the tally to four completed contracts. Lefthanded reliever Jeremy Lewis and infielder Brett Bonvechio agreed to terms this week.

Lewis, 27, was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1999 and spent four seasons in their system. He’s had success as both a starter and reliever but was never promoted above high-A. He’s been slowed by injuries but will report to Camden with a clean bill of health. Lewis is expected to join the Riversharks as a reliever. He finished last season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Detroit’s A-affiliate. In 12 appearances, he posted a 2.04 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 17.2 innings. He allowed only four runs and held opponents to a .172 batting average.

Bonvechio, 25, was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2000 and split seven seasons between the Red Sox and San Diego Padres organizations. He’s played both corner infield positions and adds versatility to the Riversharks’ defense. Last season, Bonvechio hit .266 with nine homeruns and 27 RBI in 40 games for the San Antonio Missions, the Padres’ Double-A affiliate in the Texas League.

DiFelice Sent Down: If you had February 27th in your “when will Mark DiFelice get sent back to minor league camp by the Brewers” pool, congratulations.

Milwaukee re-assigned the former Riversharks and Patriots pitcher yesterday. – Mike Ashmore


1. jevans - February 28, 2008

Not too surprising…thought I read that he either just had, or is having, microfracture knee surgery.

2. Mike - February 28, 2008

A quick Google search shows that to be true. DiFelice apparently was in fact coming off of knee surgery and was unable to pitch.

That’s a shame considering how much progress he had made in the organization since leaving the AL. Hopefully he still fits in their plans at some point this season.

3. benito98 - February 28, 2008

the L.I. Ducks have signed returning OF’s Kevin Haverbusch and Estee Harris, C Jamie Pogue and RP Ben Grezlovski- also signed were L.I. natives P Jon Searles and INF Dennis Donovan

4. LIpaperlantern - February 28, 2008

I’m glad the Ducks are signing local guys…thats what I always have been hoping for. I hope they stick – no Road Warriors to ship em to this year!

5. Anonymous - February 29, 2008

Whats the deal with ray navertte

6. Anonymous - February 29, 2008

whats the deal with the big guy Ray Navarette because the other anonymous person didnt spell his name correct

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