Hill honored to be selected as UConn baseball team co-captain
The moment will forever fill a prominent page in Aaron Hill's mental scrapbook.
There he was, with his UConn baseball teammates, at the top of Cemetery Hill on the Storrs campus around sunrise on the Friday before Thanksgiving break.
The Huskies had completed their final and most grueling workout of the fall season, carrying 50-pound sandbags up the hill.
"It was a beautiful scene," Hill said. "You get done your toughest workout all year and you're with your teammates watching the sunrise. It was awesome."
And then came the cherry on top of the memorable day.
Coach Jim Penders announced that Hill, a former Fitch High School standout, and junior Will Yahn had been selected by their teammates as co-captains for the 2017 season.
"I was really honored and happy my teammates voted that way," Hill said. "Coming in I'll try to do the same thing I've always done and that's lead by example, on and off field, try to work hard and be source of leadership."
Hill, a senior infielder, never set as a goal to be a captain. He followed the example set by former UConn leaders like Tom Verdi and Anthony Marzi. His work ethic, commitment and dedication to the program made him the perfect candidate.
Penders was happy with the results of the vote.
"He's always led by example," Penders said. "When he's done well, he's carried himself in the same way as when he's doing poorly. ... He's always been the same guy in the dugout.
"He's very consistent with every aspect off the field. He gives a good effort in the classroom. He's a good community member. He's very respectful. He's an understated does his job quietly but does it well kind of guy. And now his performance is matching that on the baseball field. We're happy to see that."
Hill is hoping to build off his late season success last spring.
His terrific all-around play helped the Huskies win the American Athletic Conference tournament title and earn the program's fourth trip to the NCAA tournament in the last seven years. He belted his only home run of the season in an AAC semifinal win over Memphis and made the conference's all-tournament team.
In the fall, he continued to thrive, capping off workouts by winning the team's offensive execution competition.
"He had the best performance in the fall," Penders said. "I just want to see him keep that going through the winter and into the spring. It will be that much easier for all of us if he can maintain that."
In his first three years, Hill has been a regular in the UConn lineup but struggled to duplicate his offensive production achieved playing for the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Last summer, the three-time NECBL all-star batted .308 with one home run and 25 RBI in 40 games while helping the Schooners capture their first league title.
At UConn, Hill owns a .212 career batting average with two home runs and 40 RBI while appearing in 141 games.
"He's been a tale of two Aarons," Penders said. "In the summer and in the spring, he's been two different guys. He really seems to be coming into his own though. He was really our most consistent player toward the end of last season and through the playoffs and through the summer and again through the fall. He didn't have any dry spells.
"He got off to such a poor start last year. I think his confidence wavered for a time. But he seems to have everything clicking right now. And his teammates have seen that in him and acknowledged it. He's always had the ability. I think he's finally believing in himself enough to perform consistently."
When exams end this week, Hill, who is majoring in communications and minoring in sociology, will head home to Groton. But he definitely won't be in vacation mode.
Hill plans to work out about four days a week to prepare for the upcoming season. Then he'll return to UConn in early January, reuniting with his teammates.
UConn's 2017 season opener is Feb. 17 against UMass-Lowell in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"It's really quick," Hill said. "We've got to make sure we're game ready within a month of our first game. ... I'm so excited for it. Absolutely excited. It's my last go-around so I want to make it a good one."
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