After thinking he ended his college baseball career four years ago, Chuck Hill is thrilled at the prospect of adding a fourth season to his College Of the Ozarks career.
Following two seasons of hitting .300-plus for the Bobcats, the 2018 Ozark grad will take advantage of an extra year of eligibility due to COVID and return to Point Lookout next school year.
“I'm 23 (years old). I'm definitely one of the old guys. I think I'm the oldest at C of O now,” Hill said while back in his hometown playing for the Sun Fish in the Show-Me Summer Collegiate League. “Since I have another year of eligibility, I was talking to (coach Neale Richardson) about staying another year and he said he'd love that. I’m grateful I still get to play.”
Hill is also looking forward to another year of college life as he works toward degrees in both exercise science and sports and recreation management.
“A lot of guys don't know what they want when they are 18. I wasn't sure what my major was going to be,” Hill said. “I jumped around a little bit. It's been nice to have the extra year to figure out what I'm doing.
“I'd love to work for the college in some capacity,” he added of his future plans. “I’ve thought about going to grad school and getting my masters and teach. If that doesn't work out, I’d like do strength and conditioning at some school, any way for me to serve students and athletes.”
The final years of college for Hill have certainly answered many questions he had swirling around in his mind. Among them was whether he had enough of baseball after initially signing with Drury following high school.
He walked away from the sport his freshman year and sat out a year, before opting to give college ball another try.
“I realized I missed it, that's what led to the transfer,” Hill said. “Sometimes, it takes a break to make you realize that you still want to play. God led me to C of O and I'm grateful the coaches there took me in."
As out of place as Hill felt at Drury, it didn’t take him long to settle in at C of O.
“The first year was a transition period, getting to know the guys and adjusting to campus life,” Hill said. “Ever since, it's been a fun time. I love it there.”
Hill has batted .333 and .346 as the Bobcats’ leadoff hitter the past two seasons. He had 58 hits, 17 extra-base hits, 51 runs scored and 22 RBIs as a sophomore and followed up by collecting 71 hits, 20 extra-base hits, 38 runs scored and 34 RBIs as a junior.
“I put in the hours to get comfortable at that level and grew confidence,” Hill said. “This year, I was able to step in as a leader and take some of the younger guys under my wing and help them through their transition period.”
Hill’s on-base percentage was over .400 each of the past two seasons. Interestingly, his sophomore season he was hit by a pitch 11 times. That actually wasn’t even a team-high, with a teammate being beaned 20 times.
"We had a little competition to see who would get hit more. He came out on top by quite a bit,” Hill said. “I never had any issue with anyone on the field, it was just wild pitching.
“I had one (pitch) hit me on the elbow and it swelled up pretty bad. After that, I got an elbow guard,” he added. “It was a little bit of a battle dealing with (being hit). My approach is usually to try to go the other way, not getting pull-happy, knowing pitchers might come in on me.”
Hill, a catcher and outfielder, helped C of O to a single-season school record 44 wins and a semifinal berth in the National Christian Colleges Athletics Association World Series last spring.
In response to C of O announcing its plans to return to the NAIA ranks and join the Sooner Athletic Conference next school year, Hill relates the overwhelming sentiment among players and coaches is excitement.
“We were pretty disappointed when we pulled out from the NAIA (two years ago), but still grateful to compete,” he said. “Getting back to a more competitive division and see what we can do against really good teams is awesome.”
Hill’s former teammates from Ozark who graduated with him and went on to play in college have ended their playing days. Forrest Barnes finished his five-year career at Missouri State this year a 14-11 career W-L record. Parker Hanks ended his four-year career at Northwestern a year ago with a 6-6 W-L record.
“I think a lot of them were ready (to move on),” Hill said. “But you can work the rest of your life, you might as well play as long as you can.”