TheGrio's 100: Michael Hill, brainiac athlete turned manager

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As you marvel at Michael Hill’s profession (upstart general manager of the Florida Marlins) you’re reminded of the way he arrived at the defining position. And you begin to see that the 40-year-old game changer’s rise doesn’t seem quite so shocking at all.

En route to becoming just the third GM in team history and only the third African-American one presently in baseball, Hill has distinguished himself in ways that expand far beyond the typical dimensions of a baseball diamond.

In December 2003, the then 32-year-old Harvard grad was named to the Black Enterprise magazine’s ‘Hot List’, an assemblage that celebrates the best and brightest black power players across the globe under age 40. And indeed, that seems a testament to the fast track Hill was then on by virtue of joining the Tampa Bay Devil Rays front office just a few years removed from the Ivy League.

“The ability to manage your time, prioritize your life, make tough sacrifices and make difficult decisions are qualities some people twice your age have not mastered, but it is those qualities that make you successful today and in the future,” said Hill in a 2005 letter to student athletes at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School.

And when it comes to the diamond, Hill’s eye for the game also seems to hold unmatched value. After starring on the Harvard baseball and football teams, Hill was a 31st-round pick of the Texas Rangers in the 1993 draft. He spent two seasons in the Rangers minor league system and one with Cincinnati before moving to the front office.
It’s there, where Hill’s knowledge and new-age perspective on the game has allowed him to flourish even more. Despite consistently fielding one of the lowest budgeted teams in all of baseball, the Marlins have won well over half their games under Hill’s watch, including a World-Series-winning performance during his first season.

So impressed have the Marlins been with his vision and performance, recently signed him to an extension through the 2015 season. Not bad for someone who’s unique brainiac approach to the game only became appreciated in baseball circles over the last decade or so.

Harvard grads such as Hill are widely chronicled in the 2003’s Moneyball, a book based on their overriding use of statistical analysis in evaluating players and interpreting the game overall.

“Owners are now running teams like Fortune 500 companies,” wrote Hill in the book. “There’s a lot of money involved in everything we do.”

And Michael Hill seems to have a read on it all. His record illustrates as much.