One of the more improbable of comeback attempts is that of two-time major league all-star Shea Hillenbrand, who averaged just over 85 runs batted in for his first four full seasons (’02-05 with Boston, Arizona and Toronto) before falling out of any level of affiliated baseball five years ago. He did log 36 games (.340) with York in 2008.
“I hadn’t touched a baseball in four years,” the fit-looking Hillenbrand, who turns 37 Friday, told me in the Bridgeport, CT clubhouse, where he is trying to rebuild a life, if not his major league career. He said the “love of the game” and being in the “low spot in life” brought him back.
“It feels really good,” said the onetime third base standout, who lost some 30 pounds (to 200-205) through diet and supplements. “You can’t replicate the feeling you get on the field. I’m not here to make it (back to the majors), he said, while also stating he always thought the years between 35 and 40 would be his best “because mentally you are more mature. I want to help and be of service.”
The 6-foot-1 Hillenbrand, who lives in Glendale, AZ, emphasizes one of the best parts of his new opportunity, even though it was not planned, is being reunited with Bluefish Manager Willie Upshaw, his hitting coach for the last 60 games of ’06 with San Francisco.
“This is a Godsend to be with Willie,” he emphasized, before adding the postscript that Barry Bonds said Upshaw was the best hitting coach he ever had.
While he has hit two home runs, it should not be surprising Hillenbrand has strugged to a .156 batting average (7-for-45) in his first 13 games of the comeback.
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