Hillenbrand: “My attitude is totally different now”

We’ve all heard the numerous reports about Shea Hillenbrand and his famous temper.

There was the time when Toronto manager John Gibbons challenged him to a fight after comments he made. Another time, he insisted Boston would regret trading him to Arizona — comparing the trade to the mistake the Sox made in sending All-Star Jeff Bagwell packing years ago. And just last year, Hillenbrand wanted off the Los Angeles Angels due to a lack of playing time.

But how many of you knew that Hillenbrand is also the owner of a 25-acre horse ranch that he invties underprivileged kids to frequently? Or that in his first day in a York Revolution uniform he was already helping teammates with small hitting adjustments?

Hillenbrand insists he’s a new man. He’s content with life. And he just wants a chance to show he still has something left in the tank.

Here’s an extended Q & A with the latest and probably most-recognizable Revolution addition ever (It’s long, so brace yourself)

How did you hear about the Atlantic League?

“Through my financial adviser. He has some connections with people that run the league. Those connections put the feelers out to the teams and I tried to find the best opportunity.”

Did you consider another team besides York?

“I talked to a couple of the teams. After I talked to my financial advisor and the league, it was really a no-brainer from there. I didn’t know much about York. I know the amount of guys they’ve had come off this team and get back into organized ball. I’m glad to have the opportunity.”

Why did it take you this long to sign? Were you waiting for an affiliated offer?

“I finished in L.A. with the Dodgers last year . I wasn’t invited to spring training (this year). I had an opportunity to come here (to the Atlantic League) out of spring training and I chose not to.”

Did you feel like you needed some time for yourself to regroup?

“I needed some time to clear my head. I was frustrated with everything that was going on with me baseball-wise. I have three young kids. That’s a big part of my life and it was a tough decision to come back. It’s a lot of sacrifice, but I have great support from my wife and kids and everybody around me.”

What ultimately brought you back?

“The love of the game. I have a lot of baseball left in me. I’ve made a lot of strides and gains over the offseason. I took my workouts to the next level and with my swing and movement, I’m glad to have the opportunity to prove to people that I can help a team.”

Was 2007 a frustrating season for you (Hillenbrand spent time with three organizations)?

(After he was designated for assignment by the Angels) “I started with the Padres and left after a week because they signed somebody else. It was a blip. I was out of the game for a month last year and this game is about performance. If you perform, your opportunities are great. But I had the worst year of my career and things escalated from there.”

Was it a surprise that more teams didn’t show interest in you?

“It was a surprise that I wasn’t invited to camp. But I’m sure it’s a surprise to a lot of guys in that situation. I’ve had some good success, but it’s one of those things. You can’t really place it. I changed agents last year, I’m sure that had an effect. I changed in February and that might have been too late. But I’m content. The only reason I’m here is because I love the game. I’ve made good money, I’ve had success. It’s one of those things where I want to be here, I don’t need to be here. I’ve got a successful business back home and for the first time in my career, I’m happy to be where I am. I’m not frustrated, I’m focused and I’m hungry. I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to help these guys too.”

Which guys on the Revs have you played with before?

“I played with Frank Castillo in Boston. I played against Corey Thurman, Wayne Franklin and I worked out with Keoni (De Renne). It’s like a big fraternity. Everybody is in it for the same reason and you try to have fun. If you play the game hard and play the game right, somebody will see.”

You mentioned you have a successful business, what is it?

“I have a 25-acre, 140-stall boarding facility for horses. I have a foundation and it’s called the ‘Against All Odds Foundation.’ I rescue animals and I have inner city kids and disabled kids come out and these are kids that come from not-so-great situations. I have unconditional love for the kids and the animals. I have a petting zoo for the kids. I’ve had that going a year last March.”

What’s your best memory from playing in the big leagues?

“The game-winning home run off Mariano Rivera in 2002. I might have been one of the first guys to do that against Mariano. That was a real thrill. Starting in the All-Star game in 2002 (was a big one too).”

Do you feel like you’ve been misunderstood in your career, maybe starting when Boston traded you?

“I was the only tradeable person (in Boston). Nobody else was tradeable. That’s business. There’s this big misperception of things in Boston. I went back to talk to Theo (Epstein) about that face-to-face and talked to him about the situation.

“But yeah, I’m a really intense person. I’m a really intense player and sometimes I can be intimidating. I’m a person who stands for what he believes in and I’m not afraid to say what I believe in. At times, it can be perceived wrong and it can be something that’s not conducive for a clubhouse. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot being home the last nine months. My attitude is totally different now. I feel really good, I’ve done a heck of a lot physically to put myself into position to compete at the highest level. It’s one of those things where I can go home at night and sleep.

“I take 100 percent responsibility for every action that I’ve taken. That’s about it. Things are looking up. People are where they are, and you either take the best out of the opportunity that you have or you sit and cry about it and say, ‘Poor me.’ This is a tough year for a lot of people in Major League Baseball that had the season I had last year. Carl Everett is here (in the Atlantic League), Jay Gibbons is here. You wouldn’t think they’d be in this league. By all means, it’s not a bad thing or a bad position for a person to be. Obviously, I’d like to be in the major leagues and I feel I have a lot more competition in me. I consider this another step in the road.”

*Claudette Roulo photos.

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5 Responses

  1. I smell a second half pennant.

  2. There’s a lot of bad press and bad blogs out there about Hillenbrand. But this is a new team (for him) and a new situation. The Revs have built a real team in the last month and if Hillenbrand can fit into this group we could have an awesome second half.

  3. I like the move and I don’t really buy the notion that Hillenbrand is going to disrupt the clubhouse. At least that’s the impression I got from him in our talk.

    He appeared really genuine Tuesday and the rest of the Revs went out of their way to chat with him.

  4. I have known Shea for over ten years and have seen his successes and his disappointments. He is stubbornly in love with his family–they come first in his life, which is not always the way to “fit In” with the guys on the team. I know his side of the story (the bad press) and am always amazed at how he never whines or complains about being treated unfairily. He and his wife are terrific partners as parents and in their dedication to the farm, where they rescue unwanted animals and give children with hardships a safe place to play and pet animals. Shea deserves another chance and I don’t think the Revs will be disppointed to have him on the team. I just wish we lived closer to watch him play.

  5. Great interview. It’s always nice to hear about the other side of people. I never knew that Shea did that for inner-city and disabled kids. Makes him still a All-Star in my book. Good Luck Shea.

    Dave S. Staten Island,New York

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