In continuing our look back through time in Philadelphia Phillies history from 1971-2019 at the most random player and pitcher from each year’s ball club, we find that the 2014 Phillies team was somewhat unusual.
Normally we highlight a player who would end up spending not more than three or four years in Major League Baseball, and even then only partial seasons. But for a team that won only 73 games and finished in fifth place, that 2014 Phillies team was fairly experienced, or had players who would spend at least seven seasons in MLB.
The choice for this club is catcher Koyie Hill, who had a big-league career lasting 11 years. However, that 2014 season with the Phillies would be his last. At age 35, he appeared in only 10 games.
Hill was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft out of Wichita State University. He had also played with Team USA’s college national team in 1999 as the starting second baseman.
Rising quickly through the Dodgers farm system, Hill made his big-league debut with a September 2003 cup of coffee during which he made three pinch-hit appearances but did not get to play in the field. His first hit in the majors came in his very first plate appearance.
On September 5, 2003, manager Jim Tracy sent him up as a pinch-hitter in a game at Coors Field against the host Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers had just rallied from down 7-6 to take an 8-7 lead earlier in the top of the 7th inning. With Alex Cora, who had just delivered the go-ahead base hit, at first base, Hill stepped in against Rockies’ right-hander Steve Reed. On a 1-0 pitch he ripped a double down the right field line.
That would be Hill’s last opportunity with the Dodgers, who traded him to the NL West Division rival Arizona Diamondbacks at the July 2004 trade deadline as part of a five-player deal in which veteran outfielder Steve Finley went to Los Angeles.
Hill would appear in 47 games with the Dbacks over the 2004-05 seasons before being released at the end of spring training in 2006. He was picked up almost immediately by the New York Yankees, and Hill would spend that season as the backup catcher for Triple-A Columbus in the Yankees system.
After the 2006 season, Hill was granted free agency at age 27. He signed with the Chicago Cubs and it would be there on the North Side that Hill would see his most big-league action.
In October 2007, Hill suffered a horrible off-season injury that nearly derailed his career. Working with a saw at home while repairing a window frame, Hill got caught in the saw and severed his thumb, doing damage to his other fingers. It required surgery and months of therapy, but he was able to recover full motion and use.
Hill saw time with the Cubs each year from 2007-12, including 83 games in 2009 and 77 in 2010. Much of that work came when starting catcher Geovany Soto was injured in early July 2009, after which Hill became the Cubs starter behind the dish.
During Hill’s first two seasons in the Cubs organization the team won the NL Central Division crown. However, Hill was not carried on the postseason roster either year. He became the team’s backup catcher in 2009, but the Cubs finished a distant second that year. Beginning in 2010, Chicago slipped towards the bottom of the division for the remainder of his time with the ball club.
Granted free agency once again at age 32 following the 2011 season, Hill signed with the Saint Louis Cardinals. Hill would spend the 2011-14 period drifting across seven organizations, including multiple stints with the both the Cubs and Washington Nationals. But he saw big-league action for only 18 games with the 2013 Miami Marlins.
The Phillies obtained him from the Nationals during spring training of 2014 in exchange for cash or a player to be named, which turned out to be a straight cash purchase in the end. He began the season as the starting catcher with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and was called to Philadelphia when starting catcher Carlos Ruiz went on the Disabled List.
From late June through late July that summer, Hill saw his 10 games worth of Phillies action. He was plugged into the starting lineup on June 28, 2014 by manager Ryne Sandberg for the first game of a doubleheader against the visiting Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park and went 1-3 with a walk and a run scored during a 10-3 loss.
With one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning that afternoon and the Phillies leading by 1-0, Hill stepped up against Braves’ right-hander Ervin Santana. After falling behind 0-2, Hill lined a double deep down the right field line for his first hit in a Phillies uniform.
Over his 10 games with the team he would make six starts behind the plate, and register five hits over 22 plate appearances. On July 8, 2014 at Miller Park in Milwaukee during a 9-7 slugfest victory for the Phillies over the host Brewers, Hill registered his lone RBI with the club.
In the top of 2nd inning with the Phillies trailing 5-1, Hill came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out against Brewers’ righty Wily Peralta. His infield single on a slow roller to second base scored Marlon Byrd as the Phillies crept closer, eventually scoring five in the frame to take the lead.
On July 20, 2014 at Atlanta, Hill would make his final start in what would turn out to be his last game in the majors. He went 2-4 at Atlanta during an 8-2 Phillies loss to the host Braves. Ruiz would return to the team a couple of days later, and that was it for Hill, who was sent back to Lehigh Valley, never to return.
The Phillies re-signed him as a free agent following the 2014 season and invited him to spring training in Clearwater. It was there in the 2015 Grapefruit League that Hill turned 35-years-old and saw his final 14 games with the club before retiring.
In August 2016, Hill had another brief moment in the sun, if you will. He was a catcher on the Kansas Stars, a team of former big-leaguers organized by Adam LaRoche and Nate Robertson to take part that month in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
The tournament usually features college-aged amateurs. But LaRoche and Robertson organized some big-name “old-timers” who were still young enough to compete. The team played for charity rather than pay, and including such big names as Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Josh Beckett, Tim Hudson, Ben Sheets, Brad Penny, Dan Uggla, J.D. Drew, Rick Ankiel, and more. The team would finish in third place, losing in the semi-finals by a 9-6 score in 17 innings.
Once the playing was out of his system, Hill moved into coaching. He is now trying to stay in the game as a coach in minor league baseball and continues to pursue a life in the game.