by Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (May 9, 2014) – Any trip down memory lane with former Rutgers baseball coach Fred “Moose” Hill presents two immediate challenges.
One: Where do you begin with the remembrances and highlights from a legendary 30-year career with the Scarlet Knights?
Two: How do you narrow them down to a manageable number?
With Rutgers honoring Hill by retiring his No. 24 in a ceremony at 12:40 p.m. on Saturday prior to the Scarlet Knights’ game against USF at Bainton Field, Scarletknights.com caught up with the winningest coach in school history – in any sport – to get his thoughts on a career that produced a 941-658-7 career record at “On the Banks.”
Here are some Moose’s moments, in no particular order:
The 2000 team that at went 40-18, won the Big East regular season title and post-season tournament, earned a No. 1 seed in an NCAA Regional and was ranked as high as No. 14 nationally by Baseball America.
• Hill: “For a Northeast school to get a No. 1 seed, that’s always significant. There were a lot of outstanding players on that team (including rising star Bobby Brownlie). One of our best teams -- that one and the one the next year (that went 42-17).”
Being part of the only father-son head coaching duo at the major college level from 2006-07 to 2009-10, when his son, Fred Hill, was Rutgers’ basketball coach.
• Hill: “One of the best days of my life was when Freddie was named the head basketball coach at Rutgers. I was a very proud father that day. It’s a big deal to have a father and son both as head coaches at a school.”
The 1990 team that came within a victory of reaching the College World Series. Rutgers lost the first game at the Regionals, then had to win three straight to reach the final, losing to eventual national champion Georgia.
• Hill: “That was one of the highlights of the program, getting that close to the College World Series. That’s tough to do for any school. It’s even tougher for a Northeast school. The only Rutgers team to reach the College World Series was the 1950 team. We fell a game short.”
Sending 72 players to professional baseball, having 20 All-Americans and producing two first-round draft picks (Bobby Brownlie and Todd Frazier).
• Hill: “I’m very proud of all of that. I can’t take the credit for it because those kids were good players. Teams from the Northeast don’t have a lot of first-round picks and it’s tougher to have players drafted unless you win. That says a lot about the program.”
The 1987 team that recorded the first 30-win season in school history and eventually produced 10 players who were drafted.
• Hill: “Obviously that gave us respect around the rest of the country. But it also showed that there are some good baseball players in New Jersey (high schools). I’ve always believed that. But that team showed the rest of the country that was true.”
Seeing Rutgers product Eric Young Sr. make the 1996 National League All-Star team.
• Hill: “The funny thing about Eric (who also starred in football at Rutgers) is that only one baseball scout liked him, a guy from the Dodgers. He had a 15-year career, I think. It shows how unscientific scouting is.”
The 1998 Big East playoffs vs. Seton Hall. Rutgers won the opening game in 17 innings on a home run by seldom-used reserve catcher Joe Waleck and went on to win the league tournament.
• Hill: “I put Joe in late in that game. I don’t think any of us expected that to happen. That’s what makes baseball so great. Winning that game was the key to us winning that tournament. It sent us on our way.”
His success in both leagues he coached in at Rutgers. Hill won eight straight Atlantic 10 regular-season titles from 1986-93 with five NCAA appearances over that span. He is also second in Big East history with 267 conference wins over 19 seasons.
• Hill: “We built a reputation with high school coaches and players in the state because of what we were able to do in the Atlantic 10. That really helped the program. I thought the Big East was an outstanding baseball conference, with excellent players. You knew you’d accomplished something if you won in that league.”
Having two active major leaguers in David Dejesus of the Tampa Bay Rays and Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds.
• Hill: “Two outstanding players for us. And they’re great ambassadors for the program. It means a lot to have them representing Rutgers now in the majors. Great players and great people.”
A 5-3, 19-inning victory over No. 20-ranked Notre Dame in 2003 (Rutgers was ranked No. 29 at the time). The four-hour, 42-minute marathon ended on Steve Normane’s two-out, two-run homer.
• Hill: “All I remember is that it was a long game. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a longer one.”