The Hillman-Gibbons connection and the return of Kevin Seitzer
The game of baseball revolves around relationships. Today, the Royals completed their 2009 coaching staff by adding John Gibbons as bench coach and Kevin Seitzer as hitting coach. The men have taken different journeys to today’s announcement, but both additions can be tracked to relationships that started years ago.
Gibbons and Trey Hillman have managed against one another at every level from Class-A to the Major Leagues. Gibbons started his coaching career as a minor league roving instructor with the Mets from 1991 to 1993. As he moved up in the Mets system, he squared off with Hillman, then a manager in the Yankees farm system. In 1996, Hillman was the Florida State League Manager of the Year. His Tampa Yankees finished first in the regular season with a 84-50 mark. Gibbons’ club, the St. Lucie Mets, went 71-62 and won the Florida State League Championship with playoff wins over Clearwater and Vero Beach.
In 1998, Gibbons and Hillman were reunited in the Eastern League. Hillman was in his second season with the Norwich Navigators while Gibbons managed the Binghamton Mets. Both were promoted to the Triple-A level for the 1999 season. Over the next three seasons, Hillman skippered the Columbus Clippers while Gibbons led the Norfolk Tides.
Managing eventually took the pair out of the country. For Gibbons, that was just across the border in Toronto, where he led the Blue Jays from 2004 to 2008. Hillman’s odyssey continued in Japan, as he skippered the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters from 2003 to 2007. Gibbons and Hillman squared off in April and May of 2008, with Gibbons and the Jays taking 5 of the 7 contests. Now in 2009, the two will work side by side.
Kevin Seitzer’s relationship with the Royals goes back nearly three decades. Seitzer, a prep standout in Lincoln, Illinois, was scouted out of high school by 2008 Royals Hall of Fame inductee Art Stewart. Seitzer’s batting skills impressed Stewart to the point that Stewart knew that the young player would someday play in the Major Leagues. Seitzer decided to attend college at Eastern Illinois in the fall of 1980. Stewart continued to track Seitzer’s progress at Eastern, and in 1983, the Royals selected the right-handed hitter in the 11th round.
Late in 1986, Seitzer arrived in Kansas City. A year later, the story at the beginning of the season was that Seitzer would play third base, which had been manned by George Brett since his arrival in late 1973. Brett moved to first, and Seitzer fit in right away with an offensive year for the record books. Seitzer tied Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett for the league-lead with 207 hits. The total was the most by a Major League rookie since Tony Oliva’s 217 in 1964. He was the fourth Royal to collect 200 hits in a season, and is still the only rookie to accomplish the feat. Seitzer tied a franchise record with 6 hits on August 2, 1987. He is the only player, home or visiting, with 6 hits in a single game at Kauffman Stadium. No other player has had more than 4.
Seitzer played for the Royals through the 1991 season before going on to Milwaukee, Oakland, and Cleveland. He coached for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and currently runs a successful baseball training facility along with his former teammate, Mike Macfarlane.
ATH welcomes both John Gibbons and Kevin Seitzer to the Royals coaching staff. We look forward to watching them build relationships with the players in 2009.