SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Jason and Lindsay Hill knew they needed to have a baseball talk with their younger sons after the oldest of their three boys, Tyler, made it to the Little League World Series in 2013.
Just because Tyler had made it, they said, doesn't mean you all will.
Then, improbably, middle brother Drew qualified for the 2017 Little League World Series, and youngest brother Brennan qualified this year. That made them the first set of three brothers to play in the tournament in Williamsport.
“We’ve actually been taking a good part of the last year trying to let Brennan know that this is going to being pretty impossible and how difficult it is,” Jason Hill said. “I had the same talk with Drew last year and, for whatever reason, it happened both times, so we feel pretty fortunate.”
All three Hill brothers reached the LLWS with the team from Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores, Michigan. Jason and Lindsay have gotten to be there every step of the way.
The Hill family has an unprecedented level of Little League World Series experience. They shared some tips on how to get the most out of the experience of during these two weeks that bring national television exposure to 12-year-old baseball players each August.
All four say that television coverage, though impressive, cannot fully describe the feeling of being on the grounds at the Little League complex.
“My lasting impression of that (first) trip was that I had watched it on TV growing up, but nothing prepares you for the sheer awesome environment that Williamsport provides you in person,” Jason said. “The fan base and having people out on the hill. Just having that many people in such a confined space with such a great sporting event, it was really overwhelming.
“I was just very impressed with the whole set-up and everything that Williamsport had to offer the first time.”
After spending last year preparing his team and being in the dugout for games, Jason had a plan for this season and one he would recommend for any parents fortunate enough to make the trip.
Parents do not necessarily get to spend a lot of time with their playing sons, who have many commitments. Jason suggests enjoying the entire tournament as a fan, even when your own sons are not playing.
“I’m just going to go this year and go to as many games as I can and just soak in the experience, and that’s what I would tell other parents to do,” Jason said before making the drive from Michigan to Pennsylvania last week. “Absolutely, I would stay there and watch as many as I possibly could.
“It’s really good baseball.”
Jason had multiple conversations throughout the tournament trail with Kurt Barr, who followed him as manager and guided this year’s team to a 2-2 record and fourth-place finish in the U.S. division. They discussed how to keep the team’s mind on the sport during games and game-preparation time in a week they face multiple exciting experiences, but also potential distractions.
Tyler, a pitcher and second baseman in 2013, is still playing baseball. The recent Grosse Pointe North graduate is heading to Lansing Community College to play baseball and just received his first Division I partial scholarship offer for 2019-20 from Ball State. He advised his youngest brother about being ready for the star treatment that the players sometimes receive.
“I’ve given him some tips on what it’s going to be like dealing with fans when you’re walking around; the reaction to the crowds in the stands while they’re playing, how he can prepare for and control his emotions,” Tyler said.
Drew said some had expressed nervousness about what to expect. He let them know that the on-field rivals are part of what makes the event special off the field.
“Probably my favorite part was getting to know different kids and talking to kids from other countries,” Drew said.
Drew, a pitcher, center fielder and leadoff hitter on last year’s team, said he learned from observing how others practice and seeing how players from different areas play.
“I know the Dominican team and Japan’s team were out in the field just practicing infield and outfield for hours every day,” he said.
Brennan said his brothers let him know to take it all in.
“We didn’t talk about playing the games, but they’ve told me just to soak all the stuff in, because when you’re in the moment, you don’t really recognize all the stuff that’s going on,” he said.
Now that their Little League time is done, the Hills have soaked in a series of baseball memories to last a lifetime.
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