Olivet catcher shines on both sides of plate
One of Ben Hill's first big hits came when he was 3 years old.
He was playing whiffle ball with his father in their front yard and took a pitch over the house, Hill told the Kankakee Times in an email. He also began playing catcher when his cousin, a pitcher, wanted to play.
Since then, Hill has developed his all-around game into the one Olivet Nazarene University benefits from today. A junior catcher for the Tigers, Hill registered in the top 10 in several offensive categories in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference as of April 26, according to the league's website.
Hill held the top spot in the CCAC in batting average at .442 and was fifth in on-base percentage at .481. He was also tied for fourth in RBIs (40), was fifth in doubles (16), was tied for fifth in hits (61), was seventh in slugging percentage (.645), was tied for eighth in total bases (89), and was third in sacrifice flies (five).
Many of his numbers are up significantly from last season, when he was named to the All-CCAC second team. Hill attributed his improvements from playing for an Athletes in Action team last summer in the Alaska Baseball League.
“It is one of the best leagues in the nation and was a real test for me,” he said. “I saw pitching from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and many more Division I schools. Like I said, it was very challenging, and I did not do very well, but it was great for me to see next-level pitching like that.”
After starring at NorthPointe Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan — where he earned Division III All-State second team honors, among numerous other accolades — he sought out a school with the same type of atmosphere as the one in which he grew up.
“Olivet brought just that to me,” he said.
He became convinced that ONU was the right fit after attending a prospect camp at the school and later getting a call from Tigers head coach Todd Reid asking him to join the program.
However, the transition from high school to college was tough at first, Hill said.
“There are 30 guys instead of 15," he said. "I also had to compete for a spot, which I did not have to do in high school. That made me work harder than I ever had before."
The detail at the college level — with its scouting reports, hitter spray charts and the like — added another challenging element, but Hill said things got easier once he got to know the program better.
Hill said baseball has been great in developing relationships and helping him through challenging times.
“I also love baseball for the time to get away from life and do something that I love to do,” he said. “After a tough day, it's great to be able to go to practice or a game and just forget about everything and just play ball.”
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