MANATEE -- It was the last time he’ll suit up as State College of Florida’s head baseball coach in the annual alumni game.
To commemorate Tim Hill’s upcoming farewell tour, Robin Jennings, a former major league player and SCF alum, presented his former coach with a present: a 5-foot-tall wood bat engraved with the college’s three names (Manatee Junior College, Manatee Community College and SCF) with years of service and “Seven,” the nickname everyone uses for the veteran coach.
“I was surprised, that was nice,” Hill said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I don’t know how I’m going to get it home. Might need a tow truck or something, or a flat-bed to get that thing home. ... That’s a heavy sucker. It was really nice. I really appreciated that.”
The nickname refers to Hill’s jersey number, which comes from his fandom of former New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle.
On Saturday, Jennings and several other alums played against the 2012 Manatees.
But the finishing touch was Jennings’ giant bat gift that weighs a lot.
“Those big bats have really been taking off for me, and I knew I wanted to do something special for him,” said Jennings, who owns Tribal Clubs, a bat-making business in Utah.
While the final score is irrelevant, what is relevant is how much of an impact Hill has had on his former players. Both on and off the diamond.
For example, current free agent Callix Crabbe was an instrumental part of Hill’s 2002 team, then known as the Lancers, which finished as the national runner-up.
Crabbe has gotten married and has a 13-month-old daughter, and the advice Hill gave his former player about facing pressure was key.
“Once I transferred from my first school up in Georgia, I came here and ‘Seven’ helped me become a man,” Crabbe said. “Just being accountable for myself, and I think that’s the biggest asset that ‘Seven’ has. He just keeps his young men on how to be men going into the next phase of life. And he did that for me.”
Even older alums who played under the legendary Bob Wynn realized the importance of continuity with just two head baseball coaches since the college was founded in 1957.
That seamless transition continues with Hill’s son, Tim Hill II, taking over the program next season.
“I am so proud of the State College of Florida now, continuing to be almost year-after-year being competitive in the state, because I know the competition level now is much stronger than for us,” said Bradenton resident Pat Osburn, who was inducted into the SCF Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday and played on the 1969 state championship team. “I think it’s in good hands with Junior. I think Coach Hill, I don’t know, I was young then when he sort of came into the program. But from what I understand, Coach Wynn sort of hand-selected Tim. He knew him. He liked him. He knew him off the field as well as how he was with his baseball team. And he knew this is a guy of character, and he’s going to continue what I sort of started here.”
Wynn’s success continued with Hill amassing more than 1,000 career victories at SCF, two national runner-up finishes and several state and conference titles among numerous other accolades over the past 30-plus seasons.
The Manatees will open the 2012 season on Friday against Miami-Dade College at Clearwater’s Jack Russell Stadium. The first home game Feb. 4, when SCF will host Broward College for a 1 p.m. doubleheader.