Juan Hillman, Nick Gordon Share Bond Of Brotherhood
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (photo of Juan Hillman)Hillman grew up in a large family, playing a lot of football. As a youngster, he went to visit his godfather, Tom Gordon. They were playing catch and the former All-Star saw that Hillman had a very strong throwing arm. He talked to him about playing baseball, and it was a decision that paid off for him.
He moved in with the Gordon family and played his high school ball there. Of course, he was also a very good hitter in high school as well, something he acknowledges that he misses.
“I do. Not going to lie, I miss hitting. Every day I want to take BP. But I can’t.”
Hillman has moved up one level each year. He is off to a slow start so far this season, but he is choosing to trust the process rather than worry too much about the results.
“I’m pretty fine where I’m at. Just sticking to my routines - day in, day out - and just making sure I go with it, no matter how outcomes come on the mound. I can’t change things up. It’s just a process I’ve got to trust. So far I’m trusting it and sticking to it.”
Hillman has found Nick Gordon to be a great source for friendship and baseball discussion because he too has experienced ups and downs of minor league life.
“He gave me good advice on what I need to do, what I need to focus on. Even though he’s over there, he pretty much knows things I’m going through. Like last year he told me he was off to a slow start, and he told me, Juan, you’re going through the same thing I was going through last year. Just stay positive and stay focused and you’ll overcome it.”
The two have a strong bond from years of growing up together and similar experiences.
“More of a friendship, but we do talk baseball every now and then. Lately it’s been more baseball, of course, because he sees that I’m going through some things right now. Just telling me that I need to read the batters’ swings and know which pitches to throw in certain counts, things like that.”
Of course, there is some occasional, old-fashioned ribbing involved as well when two guys are as close as Juan Hillman and Nick Gordon.
“We talk almost every day. I was actually on the phone with him today, talking about his home run (on Wednesday night). I was just joking around, asking him if he’s going to be a power hitter or a gap-to-gap hitter. Just always fun talk.”
We learned earlier this year in an interview with Nick Gordon that he works out and gets instruction from Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. Others in their group include the likes of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Gonzalez. Juan Hillman is also there many days.
“I know when they’re doing infield, I’m pretty much at first base. I like playing first base because I get to be an athlete a little bit, besides being on the mound. That’s it. I don’t take BP with them. I watch them. I’m the only one in the field shagging. It’s just fun being out there with those guys.”
When asked what type of player he believes that Nick Gordon can become, Hillman was all smiles and focused on an intangible.
“I’d say a leader on the team. That’s for sure. He’s mature, accountable. He’s a positive person, just wants the best for guys. As you can see, no matter how old he is compared to his teammates, he’s always trying to be that leader.”
So back to Hillman, when he’s going good and pitching well, what is working?
“If I’m doing good, I’ve got confidence out the roof. That’d be the main thing for me when I’m going good. Having the ability to throw any pitch in any count, that’s what I’m just trying to get back to. Right now, I’m off to a slow start, but I’m starting to get things figured out. Like I said I’m just trusting the process. It’s all I can do.”
And his goals for the remainder of the season?
“Just stick with my routine. Just make sure no matter what, at any point not get lackadaisical no matter how things are going. Stay healthy. Remain healthy as long as I can and try to get through this long season.”
No matter how his season goes, he’s got a good friend and brother who's in Chattanooga ready to answer his calls.
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