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What An Inspiration

Once Unsure If He Would ‘Live Another Day,’ Hill Now Calling The Shots For Skunks

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill’s stat line in his final season on the Mercyhurst University baseball team included three games played, two at-bats and one run scored.

That’s it.

But if I had a vote, the young man from Webster, New York would easily be the Lakers’ Most Inspirational Player.

The MIP, without a doubt.

Because 10 months ago, Hill, who just completed his first week as the manager of the Jamestown Tarp Skunks, wasn’t sure if “I would be able to live.”

Those were his thoughts upon waking up in a hospital last August after suffering a grand mal seizure. Ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor, he underwent surgery to remove it in September.

“I was told some very scary stuff,” Hill said after Jamestown’s 4-3 walk-off victory over Auburn last Friday night. “I didn’t know what the future held at all or if I would step back on the baseball field in any capacity. I just wanted to live another day.”

Thankfully, the tumor was benign.

“I got the great news, was able to rehab and come back, got back on the field and finished my career off (at Mercyhurst) last month,” Hill said.

And, incredibly, a new career in “America’s pastime” has begun.

Hill’s original plan was to be an intern with the Tarp Skunks this summer, helping then-manager Ben Julian in any way he could. But when assistant coach Zachary Crane took another job right before the start of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season and Julian resigned for personal reasons a week ago today, Hill was offered the managerial job on an interim basis.

So far, so good.

After Sunday’s doubleheader split with Newark, Jamestown is 4-2 under Hill’s leadership after losing six straight.

“It’s been a crazy year for me,” he said. “It’s been absolutely insane, but I know God has a great plan for me and I’ve really been able to see that this year. I can’t even put into words what I’ve been through, but to be here right now I never expected it, so I’m very happy.”

Hill, 23, won’t soon forget last Friday’s win.

See KINDBERG, Page B2

Austin Matranga’s routine grounder with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning took a crazy hop over Auburn second baseman Aedan Forde’s head that allowed Henry Juan to scamper home with the winning run, sending the Tarp Skunks to a wild come-from-behind victory over the Doubledays at Diethrick Park.

“They’ve done a great job,” Hill said of his players. “You never know what to expect when you go through a situation like that. You never know how they’re going to respond, but they’ve been absolutely wonderful. I can’t thank them enough for all the help they’ve given me. They’ve made me feel comfortable and confident when I wasn’t sure what I was going to step into. … They make my job easy.”

And, he quickly added, “fun.”

“We’re not just getting reps and showing up everyday,” Hill said. “We’re here to get better, we’re here to win, and the chemistry that is here is amazing. I’ve never been in a summer ball experience like this where people are here to win every day. Everyone has each other’s back and does whatever is best for the team. It’s an unselfish mindset. I love it.”

The feeling on the team and in the community is apparently mutual.

When the Tarp Skunks visited the Lutheran campus, which is a retirement community a few blocks from Diethrick Park, last week, Hill was asked to talk about his journey described above. I received a video of those comments via email from local sports historian Greg Peterson.

When Hill was done, the residents in attendance gave him a loud ovation.

Pretty inspirational, huh?

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