Former big league manager Trey Hillman, now at the helm of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club SK Wyverns, said Monday he will demand professionalism from his new team.
Hillman, who signed with the Wyverns last October, attended his first KBO media day in Seoul. He's only the second foreign skipper in the KBO's 35-year history after fellow American Jerry Royster, who managed the Lotte Giants from 2008 to 2010. Hillman is also the first man to manage in Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball and the KBO, having also been a skipper for the Kansas City Royals and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Trey Hillman (center), manager of the SK Wyverns, stands between infielder Park Jung-kwon (left) and pitcher Park Hee-soo at the start of the annual Korea Baseball Organization media day in Seoul on March 27, 2017. (Yonhap)
Hillman thanked the other managers for "being so professional and welcoming to me" in the preseason and said he expects his players to be the same during the regular season.
"We want to be the most professional we can be for our fans, for SK and for the game of baseball," he said. "We also want to have as many exciting nights for our fans at home and on the road as possible."
The Wyverns missed the postseason in 2016 under former manager Kim Yong-hee, finishing sixth among 10 clubs with a record of 69-75, and Hillman has been tasked with reversing the fortunes of a former dynasty that has fallen on hard times of late.
The Wyverns reached six straight Korean Series from 2007 to 2012, winning it all in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
They didn't reach the postseasons in 2013 or 2014, finishing under .500 in both years. The Wyverns grabbed the wild card spot as the fifth seed in 2015, despite a 69-73-2 (wins-losses-ties) record, and lost to the Nexen Heroes in the wild card game.
Hillman, who led the Fighters to the 2006 Japan Series title, said he couldn't have asked for a better group of players.
"I've enjoyed our players very much, their enthusiasm and their efforts," he said. "I look forward to going to the battle with them every night."
SK captain Park Jung-kwon, accompanying Hillman to the media day, said the new boss is "a great communicator," language barrier and all.
"It's easy to see he is trying so hard to reach out to all players," he said. "Our relationship with him is not so much top-down. He's such a friendly man and he pulls a lot of pranks on us. Sometimes I think it's just too much but we know it's all in good fun." (Yonhap)