Fred Hill Sr. Reaches 1,000 Win Milestone

Fred Hill Sr. is synonymous with Rutgers baseball, and Saturday's he became the 45th coach in Division I to reach the 1,000-win mark with a 6-1 win against South Florida. But the day's events were uncomfortable for Hill on many levels since he prefers to shy away from the limelight and coach the Scarlet Knights, with whom 852 wins came with after he began his career at Montclair State.

PISCATAWAY – Like Fred Hill Sr. did seemingly 999 other times after a win, he gathered his players, made a quick couple of points about the game and sent them to do the usual post-game stuff, like rake the mound.

Except this time Hill was still wet from the Gatorade cooler water dunking, had passed through an emotional line of hugs from players and ex-players, received a kiss from his wife, Evelyn, and congratulations from several more dozen well wishers.

As much as Hill tried to go about his normal postgame routine after Saturday's 6-1 victory against South Florida at Bainton Field, not even the usually stoic long-time leader of the Rutgers baseball team could ignore the significance.

It wasn't because the Scarlet Knights (20-13, 9-2 Big East) moved into first place in the Big East, but because Hill became the 45th coach in Division I history, and 16th active coach, to reach the 1,000-win mark.

"I guess it's a milestone, but it's not something where I say, ‘I've got to get 1,000,' ‘' Hill said. "We've got a game (Sunday).''

During a post-game celebration, Hill was presented with a bat engraved for the occasion, and a large banner reading "Fred Hill 1,000 wins'' was unfurled. It will hang on the left field wall for the rest of the season.

"You've gotta have great players,'' Hill said. "If I have any traits, it's probably that I'm a pretty aggressive person. As a player, I was very aggressive in all the sports I played. I think I've got a passion for winning. I like to win, I don't like to lose.''

Indeed, the afternoon was filled with awkward moments for Hill, but not all because he felt out of his element with all the hoopla focused on him.

His son and embattled men's basketball coach, Fred Jr., was in attendance, smiling while trying to block out the reality his time in his position is nearly over. An announcement is expected as early as Monday that he will be fired with cause if he does not accept a buyout from the school, sources said.

And athletic director Tim Pernetti, who opened the investigation that is leading to the removal of Hill Jr. as basketball coach, was there on the historic day to support Hill Sr., while trying to keep the focus on the baseball field rather than the an impending courtroom battle.

Rutgers baseball coach Fred Hill Sr.
"Coach Hill (Sr.) is what he is,'' Pernetti said. "We met earlier in the week about his 1,000th win, and he didn't want to talk about it. He said it was just another game, and (after it) he wanted to pack his stuff and go home. But if you build the model of coach, he's the guy.

"He runs a great program. He's accountable, (has) great integrity and just works. He's not flashy, he just goes to work. It's a great moment for his family, and a lot of coaches and players have come through the program, and we feel like we have a big part of it at Rutgers because so many of his wins are here.''

The awkwardness, though, was reserved for a select few, and didn't last long.

Instead, there was celebration surrounding Hill's milestone achievement, especially since so much of his legacy was built at Rutgers. He is in 27th season with the Scarlet Knights, and is 852-56-7. He began his coaching career at Montclair State, and is 1,000-651-9 overall.

"It's hard to talk about,'' Hill Jr. said. "It's an extraordinary accomplishment. Really, when I look around (Saturday), I look around at guys he played high school baseball with. He caught a pitcher that was here (Saturday). … I think 1,000 wins means you had a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches. But I don't think you can talk about what it's meant to the peoples' lives that he's affected, and I think you see it with these people coming back.''

The march to 1,000 came quickly and without a hiccup, with Rutgers winning six straight to get there.

"I knew coming into the game he was on the verge of 1,000 wins, so I didn't want to screw anything up,'' said Scarlet Knights winning pitcher Casey Gaynor, who allowed one run in eight innings. "I didn't want him to wait it out.''

Even at the end, though, Hill remained much more concerned about the game than the historic win.

With two outs in the ninth and an 0-2 count, Scarlet Knights closer Tyler Gebler on threw a pair of pitches just off the outside of the plate. Both were called balls by home plate umpire Carlos Deno Jr., the second of which brought Hill a step or two off the bench to ask where the pitches were located.

It mattered little since Gebler got the strikeout on the next pitch. Hill was immediately embraced by his coaching staff, then presented with the game ball, which will be autographed by each member of the team.

"I usually keep the ball, but I knew (Saturday) I wasn't getting it. It went right to (Hill)'' said Gebler, who joked about putting on Ebay. "I could have made some money on it.''

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