You may not know this, but back on October 19th, the Kansas City Royals named Trey Hillman as their new manager (the news was rudely overshadowed by the Boston Red Sox who insisted on playing Game 6 of their series against the Indians the following day, thus putting themselves above the game of baseball). So who’s Trey Hillman, you ask? Well, even if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you.
Hillman was last employed by a MLB team in 2002, when the Texas Rangers appointed him as Director of Player Development, and was a manager in the Yankees farm system for eleven years prior. For the last five years, though, Hillman was on the other side of the earth, managing the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. And no, the team name is not the “Ham Fighters”. It’s just the Fighters. Nippon Ham is a company that owns the club. And yes, they make ham. Let’s move on.
Hillman had much success managing the Fighters, winning the NPB title in 2006. And somewhere along the line, he became a cult icon. As Joe Posnanski writes, “They love Hillman in Japan”. (By the way, even Bobby Valentine has a huge fanbase over there. In fact, Valentine has a hamburger named after him called “Bobby Burger”, which is sold at the fast-food chain Lotteria. The burger apparently has cheese, barbecue sauce, and a pineapple.)
Hillman even has a restaurant dedicated to him in Sapporo (where the Fighters play) called Hillman’s Hangout, which according to the website is an “American-style Bar & Grill”. The Hangout had its grand opening on October 11th! Then eight days later, it was announced that Hillman was leaving Japan to manage the Royals… Ouch…
But if you’re ever in the Sapporo-neighborhood and get a hankering for an Onion Loaf with a Thousand Island sauce, stop on by to Hillman’s Hangout. Tell them UmpBump sent you (and you will most likely receive some puzzled looks).