Hillman shares career highlights, encourages business leaders



From left, outgoing Christian Business Leaders Association President Jason Stanley, with newly-elected President Jon Branigan and Trey Hillman, bench coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a Liberty Hill resident. Hillman spoke at a recent event co-hosted by the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the CBLA, which was organized by Chamber President Valerie Zapien, not pictured. (Photo by Kate Ludlow)

Los Angeles Dodgers Bench Coach Trey Hillman, a Liberty Hill resident, gave a leadership presentation to a combined luncheon Tuesday of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Christian Business Leaders Association.

Hillman, who has made a name for himself as a manager and baseball coach, imparted his leadership techniques for local business owners and managers, while sharing the highlights of his career and the positive impact of negative events.

“I have led the lowest players in the league and the highest players in the league in terms of pay scale. I can tell you, it’s the ones who make the most money who are often the most insecure,” said Hillman.

He spoke of overcoming his own ego to become a more effective manager.

“At the age of 27, I was the youngest manager ever to work for the New York Yankees. I thought I had to show these guys how tough I was, show them who was boss. I had to put that aside and start working more effectively,” he said.

Prior to that, Hillman played baseball. He grew up in Arlington and played college baseball at the University of Texas at Arlington. He was recruited by the Cleveland Indians for AA baseball. At the age of 25, he was recruited as a talent scout for the Indians, and in 1990 at the age of 27, went to work for the New York Yankees.

Hillman left the Yankees to work as a Development Coach for the Texas Rangers in 2002. In 2003, he got the call that would change everything.

“The Nippon Ham Fighters wanted me to come to Japan, they had heard about my work with the Yankees, and wanted me to come work for their organization. Originally, they had wanted me to sign a one-year contract. I told them if I was going to move my family across the world, I needed at least two years. I knew their program; I told them I didn’t think I was good enough to turn it around in one year. I also needed them to tell me exactly what they wanted me to do. I knew the last guy that had been over from America. His style and mine were very different,” he said.

Confident in his negotiation skills, Hillman worked the best deal for himself, his wife Marie, and their two children. They made the move to Japan and worked hard to make a new life, and a winning baseball program.

“I’m not speaking against other cultures. But some of the things that were acceptable in baseball there at the time just weren’t going to work for me. For instance, it was perfectly acceptable for a coach to physically strike a player who had made a mistake of the field. A coach could hit you on the back of the head in front of the crowd. I wasn’t the person to do that,” said Hillman.

Hillman worked in Japan for five years before deciding to return home.

“We realized how much we and our kids were missing out on,” he said. “So, I left, not knowing where I would work. I told my wife, ‘It’s okay, God always puts us where he wants us.’”

Upon his arrival in the states, he was hired by the Kansas City Royals and a new career path began.”

Hillman wouldn’t stay in Kansas City for long. In 2010, he was fired, but his reaction wasn’t the usual.

“What a blessing,” he said.

Mrs. Hillman always talked about a trip she had taken to Alaska, and she wanted to go back. He had always promised her that when he was fired, they would go. Now, he was fired in the summer, and had time to spend with his family and take that trip to Alaska.

Though he has worked with some of the biggest names in baseball – George Steinbrenner, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly and more, Hillman credits a higher power with his success.

“You have the same basis being a leader – everything good that is incurred, comes directly from God,” he said

For Hillman, being successful in management requires three things.

“You have to have integrity. I can’t deal with a person that has a hard time being honest…You have to work on your timing and presentation…and you have to choose conversation over confrontation,” he said. “Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone wants to be part of something special. That’s why it is better to have conversation, instead of coming in hard.”

In 2010, Hillman took a job as the bench coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He says his job is to make sure his boss, Don Mattingly, doesn’t know how much he is doing.

“I just do things, so they don’t end up on his desk.”