Former major league third baseman Shea Hillenbrand arrived in York, ready to join the team as its everyday third basemen.
Hillenbrand is the most recognizable player signed during the York Revolution's short two-year history. The franchise, and the ownership group Opening Day Partners, have typically filled rosters with Triple- and Double-A talent. When ODP teams have reached out to sign former major leaguers, the players typically have had short careers in the big leagues.
Players with long careers and All-Star seasons typically ended up on one team: The Long Island Ducks. But that has changed this season with the acquisition of longtime big league closer Dave Veres and now Hillenbrand.
"I would just say it has been a combination of availability and desire to play," Revs Director of Baseball Operations Adam Gladstone said.
Hillenbrand played in the big leagues for seven seasons, batting .284 with 108 homers and 490 RBIs. He played in the major leagues last season, suiting up for the Dodgers as recently as Sept. 20.
Gladstone first contacted Hillenbrand last season about playing in the Atlantic League, and he reached out to the third baseman a few weeks ago - touching off a negotiation process that included calls from York manager Chris Hoiles.
"I hope he comes in with the same attitude these guys (the Revolution) have, to better themselves and get back (to affiliated baseball)," Hoiles said.
Hillenbrand has been outspoken in the past, most notably his reaction to rejoining the Blue Jays after adopting a daughter in the middle of the 2006 season. He was reportedly upset no one in the organization congratulated him on the new addition to his family. Several media outlets - including Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Sports - reported he wrote the phrases "Play for yourselves" and "This is a sinking ship" on the clubhouse dry-erase board.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons responded by disrupting a team meeting to confront his third baseman.
"It was a team meeting, and he singled me out and was cursing at me in front of the team," Hillenbrand told FAN 590, a Toronto radio station, in 2006. "He challenged me to a fight, and wanted me to get up and punch him in the face."
The baseball annual "Baseball Prospectus 2007" also panned Hillenbrand, writing: "Hillenbrand's lack of power and patience make him an impediment to his team if he hits under .300. If you happen to run into him, try to break the news gently; fiercely proud and a bit obtuse, he thinks he's something of a star."
None of it concerns Gladstone.
"What's in the past is in the past," Gladstone said. "The biggest thing he's known for is being a .284 hitter in the major leagues."
And despite Hillenbrand's history, he remained a player teams wanted. The New York Yankees contacted the Angels about a trade to acquire Hillenbrand last season, according to the New York Post. And Hillenbrand sounded confident he will return to the majors, despite being contacted by only one team - the San Francisco Giants - in the winter.
"Something will come up," he told the Los Angeles Times in January. "I've got about 10 years to go."
Hillenbrand's arrival does solve the third baseman issue. Spring turned to summer, and the York Revolution still couldn't answer one lingering question.
Who will play third base every day?
The Revs pieced together a disappointing first half by using seven different players at third base, none of whom played third as their sole position last season. And only one of those seven players had played third primarily in 2007.
York's shortcomings on defense can be blamed squarely on the team's infield shuffling. Playing out of position for much of the season, two players - Keoni DeRenne and Matt Padgett - have accumulated double figures in errors. But they shouldn't shoulder the blame, since the Revs would otherwise have had nowhere to turn.
The acquisition of Hillenbrand could cause the Revs to move one of its infielders - a topic Gladstone did not want to discuss immediately.
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