KANSAS CITY—During a chapel service April 27 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), the then-manager of the Kansas City Royals described how he balances his spiritual life with the demands of his profession.
Trey Hillman expressed his great joy at being a Christian and the opportunities his position has afforded him to make a difference for Christ. Who would have known that his time was short?
Hillman was fired May 13. His record as manager from 2007-2010 was 152-207. It was said of him to the end that his players respected his character.
“This is a great blessing to have the platform I have,” Hillman said. “I pray that I’ll have the wisdom God needs me to have to use this platform to glorify Him. I decided a long time ago that wherever God puts me, then I’m going to honor Him, be bold with my faith, and I’m going to continue to lead to the best of my ability.”
The veteran manager described his upbringing as being in a God-fearing family that taught him great values and morals. He said he grew up in the Church of Christ denomination, but over the years he and his wife have found that “the Baptist church has fed our souls and provides better programs for what we wanted our children to be involved in.” The Hillmans attend a Baptist church in Liberty Hill, Texas.
The Royals skipper said an average day for a manager is 12-15 hours and involves a workout and quiet time to reduce stress, numerous meetings, reviewing video and scouting reports, player interaction, game time, and media interviews. He said the toughest part of the job is traveling a lot and being away from his family. He noted that he had a solid method to help in that area.
“I’m blessed to have many Christians around me,” he said. “I always encourage people who are struggling in some area to surround themselves with the right people – those who will encourage and not suck the life and energy from them. I want to be around people that give me energy; who are filled with the Holy Spirit and know what it means to be bold in their faith, profess their faith, and encourage people.”
Hillman, who managed the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan for five seasons and led them to claim the 2006 Konami Cup, said that even after a tough 2009 season where the Royals lost 97 games he was encouraged to come back because of the great support he received in the area.
“For those of you who prayed for us, and me, I couldn’t wait to get back this year so I could thank you personally,” he said. “More than any other year that I’ve managed, I felt those prayers of support from the Christian community in Kansas City.”
MBTS President Phil Roberts was asking questions in an interview style format but commented on what a great challenge it is in professional sports for the athletes to deal with character issues. He added, “It’s great to know what a great man God has placed as leader of the Royals team. Your character and lifestyle certainly speak volumes about who you are and Whose you are. We thank you for taking on that responsibility and sharing your faith boldly with those on your team, organization and in Major League Baseball.”
The chapel service included the singing of “God Bless America,” as well as Royals souvenirs that Hillman helped throw out into the audience. He also took the time to interact with MBTS students and families and sign autographs.