LITTLE ROCK — Number on his back and stopwatch in his pocket, Travis Hill will return to his part-time job Tuesday night when the Arkansas Travelers open a four-game homestand.

LITTLE ROCK — Number on his back and stopwatch in his pocket, Travis Hill will return to his part-time job Tuesday night when the Arkansas Travelers open a four-game homestand.

Virtually anonymous, the sixth grade world history teacher and baseball coach at Episcopal Collegiate works at Dickey-Stephens Park in front of a couple thousand people; his office a 20-foot long rectangle outlined in lime.

Hill’s road to the first base coaching box for Travelers’ home games began four years ago when Hill called Rusty Meeks, now the team’s assistant general manager, to ask about Episcopal Collegiate playing a game at Dickey-Stephens and the two men remained in touch.

Fast forward to this year.

Naming a first-base coach was left to the discretion of Travelers manager Bill Richardson by the parent club, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Major league teams have more than a half-dozen coaches, including an assistant to the hitting coach and one to run the bullpen, but most teams in the Texas League are limited to a manager who doubles as the third base coach, a hitting coach, and a pitching coach. At first base, teams make do.

Richardson prefers not to have his players do the job — he has no choice on the road — so he asked Meeks if he he knew somebody who might be interested. A former high school coach and teacher, Richardson told Meeks that he believes minor league coaches are also instructors and he wanted someone accustomed to teaching.

Meeks reached out to Hill.

"My first response was bummed out," Hill said. "I had a trip planned over the summer to take my kids up to Washington to see their grandparents, then down the California coast to see extended family, and then back home to Little Rock."

The trip was going to take about a month and Hill started making a list of people he thought would enjoy the job and be an asset to the organization. At home, Hill and wife Dana talked, agreed that the opening might be a rare chance for a high school coach looking to learn, and canceled the trip.

He and Richardson talked about the job and, admittedly nervous, Hill started a week later.

To take full advantage, he passed on his normal summer job coaching a Little Rock-based amateur team.

"I wanted to be able to be to batting practice, coaches’ meetings, individual work, and anything else I could learn from," he said. Because Richardson coached in high school, Hill wanted to "pick his brain about practice structure, identifying player strengths and weaknesses, and how to be a better coach."

Until high school baseball ended, Hill’s days were extended. He was up at 6 a.m. to make lunch for his daughter, at school by 7:30, taught until 3:35, practiced his team from 4-6, and then head for Dickey-Stephens "hoping for a 2 1-2-hour Travelers win."

Now, he’s at the ballpark earlier, doing the staff’s bidding. He also sits in on staff meetings, but primarily just listens because of a lack of knowledge about personnel.

Although he grew up playing baseball on the West Coast, the Razorbacks are in his resume. Redshirted at Fresno City College, Hill was drafted in 2005 by the Texas Rangers, but returned to Spokane to see his folks and play summer ball and was offered a scholarship at Seminole State College in Oklahoma. After the 2006 season, he played two years at Arkansas, then remained in Fayetteville as a graduate assistant, working with the pitching staff and coach Dave Jorn.

The first time Hill visited Little Rock he was following up on a phone call from Episcopal Collegiate to the UA inquiring if there was anybody interested in coaching high school baseball. The school with the young program was a perfect fit for Hill.

Hill preferred not to reveal his salary from the Angels, but the money is a distant second to the experience.

Talking with Meeks, Richardson has complimented Hill’s work and Hill went out of his way to mention the helpful attitude of the staff and the front office.

I thought maybe a part-timer would worry about being second-guessed on base-running decisions, but Hill said almost all those reads are on the players.

The stopwatch? Hill clocks the time it takes the opposing pitcher to deliver a pitch and other factors that influence whether the Travelers should try to run on a particular pitcher.

By the way, Hill’s uniform number can change nightly depending on roster transactions. So far, he has worn 17, 19, and 34, but doesn’t care — this gig is all about the opportunity.


Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: