Right now – Rich Hill is baseball’s oldest active pitcher at age 39. This became official when Fernando Rodney was designated for assignment by Oakland earlier in the week.
While Hill is the current trivia answer for the game’s oldest hurler, there is another reason for this post. In particular, it’s Hill telling Pedro Moura of The Athletic he plans to keep playing baseball for the foreseeable future.
Let’s get you caught up with the ‘why’ behind Hill feeling that he’s tapped into a relative fountain of youth.
“Everyone in here really wants to win, there’s no doubt about it. But Rich really wants to win. You can see that when he pitches, like in Tampa Bay, when he’s screaming out F-words in front of 2,000 people." Baseball's oldest pitcher might be its fiercest. https://t.co/zveLQYWS52
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) May 31, 2019
First, Hill just hit the 10-year mark in official MLB service time earlier in the week. Because of this, he’s going to get the best possible pension when he retires. In case you’re wondering, this is the difference in several millions of dollars to a Major League ballplayer.
While a decade in the game was his initial goal, Hill tells Moura that he’s going to keep on rolling as long as he’s feeling good. And the good news – he’s still feeling really good.
He owns a 3.24 ERA over 62 games since his August 2016 acquisition. His wife, Caitlin, and son, Brice, want him to keep playing. And he believes he is “throwing the ball arguably better than I ever have in my entire life.”
Furthermore, Hill was drafted 20 years ago this coming Monday. That’s almost unbelievable to read a few times, and still it’s true. Hill tells Moura that the key to his longevity was his decision to become a starting pitcher in 2015.
“It’s really interesting, because it really changed my career path,” he said. “You’re pushed into that level of creativity. Because, if I don’t do this, I’m not playing, and I’m not doing something that I love to do. You do it out of necessity.”
It sounds like Hill knows the difference between staying in the game he loves while he’s effective, and sticking around too long.
“You understand that there will be a time to move on, and you don’t want that to be too late,” Hill said. “Because you see, unfortunately, some guys run it thin at the end. And I totally understand that, because it’s very difficult being the player in that moment and not having the foresight and the understanding that it isn’t the same.”
Now, when guys are 39-years old; the end can come in a hurry. Indeed, Hill has been around the game long enough to know that. This sounds like the case of a player who is feeling great at the current time – and he wants to let everyone know as long as that remains – he will keep playing. Best guess here is that we see Dick Mountain out there for a few more summers, maybe two beyond this one.
And honestly that’s great for the Dodgers organization and all of baseball. What a great story he’s been within the game, aside from just for Los Angeles.