Former Rutgers Head Baseball Coach Fred Hill Sr. passed away Saturday at the age of 84. He guided the Scarlet Knights for 30 seasons, winning a staggering 941 games, the most of any coach in any sport at RU. Hill is a member of several Hall of Fames, but his impact on the field pales in comparison to all he did off of it.
Hill coached at least 72 players who went on to play professionally, including current Major League players Todd Frazier and Patrick Kivlehan. Frazier, Kivlehan, plus a host of other former players, colleagues, and friends gave their thoughts and thanks to the legend in a press release from Rutgers. The full list of tributes can be found here.
One of those came from 13 year MLB veteran David DeJesus:
“Moose was more than just a great Hall of Fame coach, he was like having another father figure in my life. What he brought to the table as a man and coach gave me the tools to be successful in life, let alone my baseball career. He taught me how to be prepared for everything on the baseball field and the ability to visualize the play before it happens. It’s sad to hear and hurts a lot to see where Moose is at, but I love him and his beautiful family! He will be in all of our hearts and prayers, and all of his ex-players and people who came in contact with him know how special of a man he is!”
After graduating from Clifford Scott High School, Hill attended Upsala College in East Orange where he won four letters in football and was named a Small College All-American after his senior year. He also won three letters in basketball and not surprisingly, four in baseball. On the diamond he continued his career in the Washington Senators’ (before they became the Minnesota Twins) minor league system. After his minor league playing career concluded, Fred made several coaching stops as an assistant at the college level or head man at the high school level throughout New Jersey.
In 1976, he made the jump to the college as the Montclair State football coach, posting a 55-12-4 mark with five NJAC titles in seven years. His most famous pupil was former NFL legend Sam Mills. Even after Mills moved on to professional football, Hill led the Red Hawks to the Division 3 semifinal in 1981 and an undefeated season in 1982, his final year coaching on the gridiron. In the spring, Hill led the Red Hawks baseball team to two NJAC championships, three NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the 1983 Division III World Series with a cumulative record of 148-91-2 during the same time frame.
After the 1983 season, Matt Bolger Jr. who held the Rutgers head baseball coaching position since 1961 and been on the staff for 30 years decided to retire. Rutgers legend and former MLB manager Jeff Torborg was asked to weigh in;
“The athletic director at RU asked me for a recommendation for the baseball coaching position, and Freddy’s name immediately came to mind. And the rest is history. What a career.”
During his own 30 years at Rutgers, Hill led the Scarlet Knights to 12 regular-season conference championships, eight conference tournament crowns, and 11 NCAA Regional tournaments. RU’s all-time stolen base king Doug Alongi was a member of several of those squads:
“I was fortunate to play for Coach Hill. There were times we took the field and were outclassed from a talent perspective. Not once did we take the field and find ourselves less prepared than any opponent. Coach was a great teacher of the game. I am glad I was able to recently thank him for the impact he had on my life.”
Hill’s overall record at Rutgers was 941-658-7 and included 267 victories in 19 seasons of Big East Conference play, second in league history. Louisville Head Coach Dan McDonnell talked about Hill’s legacy in the Big East:
“Getting to coach in the Big East was an honor because of the opportunity to go against several great coaches, with coach Fred Hill leading the class. It’s not every day, but fortunately for us every year, we got to compete against a coach who passed the 1,000 win mark.”
Hill and his wife Evelyn married in 1956 and had six children: Nancy, Fred, Linda, Jim, Tracey and Karen. While Hill Sr. was still coaching at RU, one of his sons, Fred Jr. was named head basketball coach of the Scarlet Knights in 2006. Fred Sr., nicknamed “Moose”, actually outlasted his son at RU, coaching his last game in 2013. “Moose’s” younger brother Brian, 13 years younger, also ended his NBA coaching career the same year.
Current Head Coach Joe Litterio played his college ball at Rutgers in the early 90s for Hill Sr. and replaced him as the team’s manager in 2014 after Fred retired from the position. RU promptly retired Hill’s jersey number 24 in May of that year alongside only Torborg’s number 10. Despite becoming a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in January of 2015, Hill joined the Caldwell College coaching staff that same year. After two seasons at Caldwell, he joined Kean University as an assistant. In January 2017, Rutgers opened the Fred Hill Training Complex, a $3 million facility that is the home of the baseball and softball programs, a testament to Hill’s impact.
Fred Hill Sr. belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Rutgers Baseball, but for so many people throughout the Rutgers and New Jersey communities at large, that doesn’t even do it justice.
Former player Greg Badger might have said it best:
“I still use Moose-isms 15 years after graduation. There’s no doubt that Coach Hill helped young men to become more competent and successful in life endeavors. He was quite a spark plug, and a great example to follow. Moose will be missed.”