Texas Rangers

One swing by this former Mansfield High player made his MLB debut with Rockies a thrill

Former Mansfield High player Sam Hilliard blows a bubble as he heads down the first-base line after hitting a two-run home run Tuesday night for his first career hit.
Former Mansfield High player Sam Hilliard blows a bubble as he heads down the first-base line after hitting a two-run home run Tuesday night for his first career hit. AP

From the files of Local Boy Does Good comes Sam Hilliard, the former Mansfield High baseball player who made his MLB debut Tuesday night for the Colorado Rockies.

It was a memorable one.

The Rockies’ No. 9 prospect connected for a two-run home run for his first career hit, which sent his family and friends at Coors Field into a frenzy. Afterward, he was asked if he could have ever imagined hitting a homer for his first hit.

“Yeah,” Hilliard said to reporters. “Why not?

“I’m just grateful that my family was here to see me hit one. A lot of nerves going into it, obviously, but I calmed down a little bit. It sucks that we lost, but I’m definitely going to take away something good from it.”

It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops, as Hilliard had some issues in center field. He committed an error and hesitated on a flyball that fell between him and left fielder Ian Desmond, the former Rangers player.

But he didn’t let that play affect him. He connected in his first at-bat.

“I tried my hardest to just laugh it off, the mistake I made out there,” Hilliard said. “If I had been dwelling on the mistake I made, I probably wouldn’t have had success in my next at-bat.”

The outfield at Coors Field is massive, much larger than any stop Hilliard has made in his minor-league career. He was already preparing to start working out any kinks Wednesday before the series finale against the Boston Red Sox.

“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment,” Hilliard said. “It’s going to be a lot of ground to cover. It’s probably the most ground I’ve every had to play on. You have to get used to the conditions and the grass. We’re going to get out there early and work on it.”

As for the home-run ball, which was retrieved and given to him after the game, it’s going back to Texas.

“It’s going home, back to Fort Worth, probably to my parents’ house,” said Hilliard, 25. “I’ll let them keep it, until further notice.”

Hilliard is a large center fielder, in the mode of Rangers All-Star Joey Gallo. Hilliard is 6-foot-5 and 238 pounds, but he has the speed to amass 124 steals as a minor-leaguer.

He went to two junior colleges after graduating from Mansfield and landed at Wichita State, where he was a left-handed pitcher and first baseman. The Rockies selected him in the 15th round of the 2015 draft.

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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