The Chicago Cubs recently expanded their roster for the final month of the season. Included in that expansion is catcher Koyie Hill. You might ask, "What's so special about that?"
Well, just 10 months ago Hill lost three fingers and a thumb on his right hand in a table saw accident.
Koyie, who made his MLB debut with the L.A. Dodgers back in 2003, had all three fingers and the thumb reattached by a specialist shortly after his accident. Hill wanted to play ball so badly that he considered having his pinkie amputated so that he could have a better grip when he threw the ball—the most important skill a catcher needs.
After hours of therapy and relearning everything, Hill managed to regain control. During his therapy he said, "I had to learn how to give high fives all over again. Everything is different."
Hill, who had plans to become an architect before playing baseball, and his dad, who works as a carpenter, were in the garage in October of 2007, working on some wood that was to be used for a window frame. While Koyie was using the table saw, part of the wooden frame got stuck in the saw and Koyie's hand went with it.
“It cut my thumb off first, went through all the muscle in my thumb, and it went back and turned and cut all four tendons and all four fingers and all four ligaments,” he said.
All Koyie could think of was baseball. "I sat in a doctor’s office here in Chicago in December, and he looked right at me and said he didn’t think I was going to play again. You got some of the best people (saying) `I just don’t know, I don’t see it, but good luck.'"
"In the back of my mind, I always knew if I got the opportunity to play like I did, the Cubs kept me in the lineup down there, I knew I was going to be able to do it. I knew it was going to be hard and it looked ugly at the beginning.”
Hill first joined the MLB as a catcher for the L.A. Dodgers back in 2003. However, the Dodgers had all-star catcher Paul Lo Duca, so Hill didn't get much playing time. In 2005, the Dodgers traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for veteran outfielder Steve Finley.
Hill became the starting catcher for the D'backs at the beginning of the 2005 season. However, luck was not on Hill's side, as he spent the majority of the time as a backup to Chris Snyder. In the 2005-2006 season, Hill made only 34 appearances.
Eventually, the Yankees picked Hill up, but this time he was sent to AAA to the Yanks' then-affiliate the Columbus Clippers. However, the Yankees weren't impressed with Hill, and he was released from the organization in 2006.
In November of 2006, the Chicago Cubs signed Hill to a minor league contract. During that season, Hill was essentially a backup for catcher Henry Blanco. He played 36 games for the Cubs in 2007, but spent most of his time in Iowa playing for a AAA team.
Due to his accident in October of 2007, Hill's career looked to be over.
However, through hours of therapy and determination, he made it back into baseball less than a year later.
"It was a long deal. We did three or four hours of therapy every day and you battle a lot of nightmares and ups and downs emotionally as far as your career. I’m proud I’ve been able to overcome. Every day I got to keep on top of it. We feel like we got it under control for the most part.”
Hill is the Cubs’ third catcher in the final month, just happy to be in a pennant race and playing baseball. When his days of playing are over, he said he might have his ring finger taken off for good because it is giving him so much pain.
But at age 29, that’s a long way off. Now, he’s just working every day with stretching exercises to keep his fingers as limber as possible.
The Cubs also activated right-hander Jon Lieber from the 15-day disabled list, right-hander Angel Guzman from the 60-day disabled list, and recalled right-hander Michael Wuertz and infielder Micah Hoffpauir from Triple-A Iowa. They also selected the contract of infielder Casey McGehee from Iowa.
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