Army's Hill honored to serve USA

Army star pitcher Nick Hill always planned on serving his country. Just not this quickly. In time, Hill will proudly put on a U.S. Army uniform. For now, he is content with the red, white and blue duds worn by the USA Baseball National Team.

"This is something special," said Hill, who recently completed his first week with Team USA. "I'm looking forward to serving my country some day (as a soldier), but to be able to also represent the U.S. baseball team is an honor. There are so many great players on this team." Normally a starter, Hill made an impressive debut for Team USA out of the bullpen last weekend. He tossed three innings of near-perfect relief, combining with Jake Arrieta of TCU and Clemson's Daniel Moskos on a three-hit shutout, leading the U.S. to a 3-0 win over Chinese Taipei in Durham, N.C. Hill, a lefty, allowed just one hit over three innings, striking out four and walking two.

"I will do whatever I need to help the team," said Hill of his relief role. "My routine really doesn't change much. It's pretty fun to toss every day and to know I always have to be ready." Hill, a two-time All-American and the two-time Patriot League pitcher of the year, became the first Army player to earn a spot on the U.S. national team since pitcher Steve Reich in 1993. Reich notched a 2-1 record with a 2.48 ERA in 17 appearances for Team USA that summer, striking out 38 while walking only three.

Reich died in eastern Afghanistan last July while serving in the U.S. Army. He was 34-years-old.

Hill was one of 35 players invited to Team USA tryouts earlier this month in New England. Twenty-two of them earned spots on the team. Hill figured to be playing in the Cape Cod League this summer with Army teammates Milan Dinga and Kyle Scogin.

Pro scouts flock to the Cape to find talent. Playing for Team USA will give Hill, entering his senior season, even more exposure. The Boston Red Sox drafted Hill in the 47th round of last month's draft, but Hill said the organization had no intention of signing him. Boston officials told Hill they selected him as a courtesy.

"It was an honor," said Hill, who could serve only two years active duty after graduating from West Point if he signs with a pro club under Army's Alternative Service Option.

"Nick profiles as a legitimate mid-round selection," Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod told the Boston Globe last month. ``He's a three-pitch guy with a fastball touching 91. He has an out pitch with the slider and good feel for his changeup. He's a classic lefty that can pitch and has some power to his repertoire with the fastball/slider.

"He absolutely cannot sign until after his senior season. My understanding is that he will have to fulfill his military obligation at some point but he should be able to start his pro career soon after graduation."

Hill and his teammates will play seven exhibition games at the Durham (N.C.) Bulls Athletic Park and also compete in the 35th annual USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star series (July 25-29; in the U.S.). Team USA will play a series against Taiwan before heading to Cuba in August for the World University Championship. If Hill keeps dealing like he did against Chinese Taipei, expect his stock to continue to rise. Expect him to get drafted a lot higher than the 47th round next summer.

Whatever happens, Nick Hill is prepared to serve his country.

"It's been my dream to play pro ball for as long as I can remember," he said. "I would love to pursue it, but if it doesn't, I will be honored to serve in the Army. We will see what happens."


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