2017-05-19 / Sports

Mansfield's Hillson excited to begin his professional baseball career

BY BRIAN FEES

Sports Editor

Ever since he was little, Mansfield's Taylor Hillson dreamed of being a professional baseball player.

Now, that dream is coming true as he signed to play with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League.

"It's something I have always been looking forward to doing," Hillson said. "I had an opportunity to do it and scooped it up when I had the chance."

As a kid, Hillson always dreamed of this moment.

"I was always out in the backyard pretending I was a professional guy," Hillson said. "It's pretty cool to say I'm a professional baseball player."

While he still has a semester left at Mansfield, this opportunity is the perfect fit for Hillson.

"I have all summer left, I will have the summer to play baseball, than I can come back and finish in the fall," Hillson said. "It's kind of perfect."

Right after signing Hillson was on his way to Evansville to begin his pro career. He was with the team for the doubleheader yesterday.

"I was on the phone with Andy (manager Andy McCauley), he said take a couple days and come on out," Hillson said. "My whole family sent me off to the airport, it was hard to leave, but at the same time I'm getting a chance to play the game I love."

Going to high school and college in Mansfield, it's tough for Hillson to leave, but at the same time, he got used to playing baseball out of the area with summer ball last year.

"West Virginia really helped me out for that playing for the Miners," Hillson said. "I'm always going to miss being in Mansfield, playing out here it's a lot of fun, it's good group of guys, just the biggest thing I'm getting used to is how flat it is, there aren't all the mountains."

The Frontier League seemed like the right fit for Hillson when he was looking to start his professional career.

"It's the Frontier League, one of the better independent ball leagues," Hillson said. (Former Mansfield star) Anthony Renz played out here, he liked it a lot. It was one of the opportunities there and I decided to take this one."

Evansville has had 69 players signed to contracts with Major League Baseball organizations and two went on to play in the Big Leagues. Hillson hopes that one day he can join that list.

"I think it's a step in the right direction to open a couple doors for myself," Hillson said.

Signing with Evansville means that Hillson is no longer draft eligible, but he feels like playing professional baseball gives him even more chances to get noticed by Major League teams.

"I think it does, that's what I'm hoping for at least," Hillson said. "I'm just hoping for the best."

Deciding between signing with a pro team, or waiting to see if he got drafted was a tough choice.

However, Hillson felt like signing with Evansville was the best bet for him.

"It's tough either way," Hillson said. "I didn't want to sit around and wait for something (getting drafted) that may or may not happen, so I took the guarantee. I think this is better for me. I get to play every day rather than sit at home.

"It's all kind of new to me. I'm trying to get my feet wet here. I hear stories about guys getting signed, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen, if it's not, it's not."

Playing multiple positions in college is helping Hillson with his role now.

"Right now I'm the backup infielder for every spot and catching bullpen on the side," Hillson said. "The good thing going for me, I can play anywhere on the field. Anytime you can play different positions it gets you that much closer to being on the field all the time. I know what needs to be done in every position, it just helps me out a lot."

Going from college, where Hillson started 169 of the 172 games he played and was a .323 career hitter, to the professional level is starting over for Hillson.

"These guys, every guy out there is a really good ball player," Hillson said. "No one is just here to have fun, everyone is doing it for a living. You can really tell the difference in the game. How much faster, how much harder the guys are hitting the ball.

"It's kind of like going back to freshman year, everyone calling you a rookie. It's all fun."

It's starting to sink in for Hillson that he's now a professional baseball player.

"A little bit, yeah," Hillson said. "At the same time, I'm trying to get used to it out here. It's a lot faster, it's just different out here. I'm happy to be here, happy to get the opportunity."

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