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Bryan Hill is used to winning and, if the 2017 season proved anything, that’s what the Wilson Tobs need.
Hill, who was the head coach of the Edenton Steamers from 2013-2016, was named the Tobs new head coach for the 2018 Coastal Plain League summer collegiate baseball season. Hill previously coached the Tobs during the 2012 season, first as their pitching coach before being promoted to head coach to replace Jason Immekus in midseason. Now the Greenville native, who is the pitching coach at NCAA Division II Chowan University, is happy to be coming back to coaching in the summer and to Wilson and, specifically, Fleming Stadium.
“I wanted to get back into coaching,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. I like summer ball. I like the setup.”
Hill said the Tobs management worked with him to secure an apartment for his growing family. He and his wife, Jacqueline, have a two-year-old daughter, Lou-Anna, and another child on the way.
““The Tobs staff is excited to bring back Bryan to the organization due to his history with the Tobs and proven success within the CPL,” Tobs general manager Mike Bell said. “I have a great feeling that 2018 will be one of the best seasons yet.”
Hill will replace Aaron Lynch, who was the Tobs head coach the past two summers and served as assistant coach in 2015. Bell said that Lynch, who has been a volunteer assistant coach at Div. I Davidson College, was hired as the school’s operations manager for its facilities and given a greater role in recruiting.
Hill certainly knows about winning baseball games. He guided the Steamers to the CPL’s Petitt Cup championship in 2015 when Edenton was proclaimed the summer collegiate team of the year by baseball scouting service Perfect Game USA. His Edenton teams went 153-72 (.680 winning percentage) while winning the CPL East Division three times in the first half and twice in the second. Hill was named CPL Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015.
At Edenton, he coached 30 future Major League Baseball draft picks
His winning ways began first as a baseball player at J.H. Rose High in Greenville as well as for the Pitt County Post 39 American Legion baseball team. The Rampants won North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A championships his sophomore and junior years and Post 39 claimed the North Carolina American Legion title in the summer of 2005. Hill was the Post 39 MVP in 2006. Hill was a starting pitcher and outfielder for Chowan and also played for the now defunct New Bern River Rats in the CPL in 2007.
He understands what it takes to win in the Coastal Plain League.
“I wouldn’t say there is a formula, but getting as much information as possible coming in and knowing who you have and not just taking a player on a whim,” he said. “There’s information all over the place these days.”
While his only foray as the Tobs head coach was not successful — the team posted a CPL-worst record of 21-34 in 2012 — but that wasn’t entirely the fault of Hill, then 25 and thrust into the head coaching job rather unexpectedly. Furthermore, Hill was coaching players that he had not signed.
“I never really had the chance to put my mark on it like it was my team,” he said.
Hill said that, as a college pitching coach, he understands the difficulty in landing pitchers who can throw a lot of innings; however, he uses his experience as a college coach in dealing with his colleagues as he pursues their players for summer duty.
“I’ve got quite a bit of connections after being in this league for five years doing this,” Hill noted.
While he said he just looks for players that he believes can produce, he doesn’t hold himself to any hard and fast rules — except maybe two.
“I don’t take many freshman,” he said, adding that he also takes “players who have played in wood-bat leagues before.”
Hill said he never attempted to sign so-called home-run hitters to play at Edenton’s tiny Hicks Field, but did look for ground-ball pitchers instead of fly-ball pitchers for the Steamers.
“That’s a stat you can find,” he said.
Hill already has around 40 players signed for the Tobs next summer. Even though he took last summer off to spend more time with his wife and daughter, he still put together a team.
“It was something fun to do,” he said.
So he did it again when the CPL season ended and he started thinking about getting back into coaching.
“By no means is recruiting over because kids are going to get hurt and go to summer school. We’re going to lose kids,” Hill said. “Forty is the base that you work off and you try to stay around that. … I’ve lost 10 guys before in the month of May.”
Hill is aware of the Tobs’ struggles last summer, when they posted the worst record (18-37) in their 21 seasons. He wouldn’t promise anything more than filling the roster with “hard-nosed, hustling baseball players,” but he is happy to be headed back to Wilson.
“It’s going to be a fun place to win a lot of baseball games. Wilson is a crowd that likes to win and, if you don’t, they’ll let you know,” Hill said. “I’m excited to be back, that’s for sure.”