Obscure Athletes

Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End

Obscure Spotlight: Shea Hillenbrand

When you share the name of one of sport’s worst venues, you can only expect so much out of your career. I guess somebody forgot to tell this to Shea Hillenbrand. Shea Matthew Hillenbrand was born on July 27th 1975 in Mesa, Arizona; and the world would never be the same thereafter. The

Hillenbrand in All-Star form. "I'll be back," he snickers.

prodigy they called Shea was drafted in the 10th round of the 1996 Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox.

After floating around in the Red Sox minor league system at various positions for nearly five years, big Shea got his big break. Boggs, Petrocelli, Hobson, Hillenbrand? Not so much. Shea proved to be not only one of the worst defensive third basemen in all of baseball, but he also lacked any ability to sustain a respectable on base percentage (.291) and also sported a poor batting average (.263) Nonetheless, Hillenbrand came back strong for the 2002 season and was named the starting third baseman for the American League in the All-Star game. He rose his OPS to a respectable .789, but of course he led the league in errors by a third baseman with 23. Feeling threatened by the Red Sox’ signing of veteran Bill Mueller in 2003, Hillenbrand did his best to run himself out of Boston. His labor would be rewarded when he was hand picked by the great Bob Brenly to be his middle of the order thumper in Arizona; in exchange for rising star closer Byung-Hyung Kim. We can of course recall that this would cause Shea Hillenbrand to compare himself to the Red Sox trading Jeff Bagwell before he erupted into a star. Boy, leaning a little far off first, Shea?

Hillenbrand would soon be on the move again after the 2004 season, a season in which was arguably his best (.310/.348/.464). After leading the league in errors at first base (13), he was sent off to the Toronto Blue Jays. In his first year with Toronto, he was a utility player, showcasing himself at 1B/3B/DH. Unhappy with being a regular at one position, Hillenbrand began a feud with then manager John Gibbons. Going as far as to deface the team’s billboard, Shea again was in a position where he ran himself out of a perfectly good situation. He was then traded to the Giants for fellow obscure athlete Jeremy Accardo, and in the following off season signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With rising stars Reggie Willits and Casey Kotchman knocking at Shea Hillenbrand’s door, Shea found himself designated for assignment in June of 2007; after requesting the Angels show him “respect” and trade him away.

Shea Hillenbrand then signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres in July of 2007 before failing miserably with their triple a affiliate, and was released on August 8th. On August 10th, he signed a minor league deal with the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers; undoubtedly to show the Padres what they were missing. After having absolutely no effect whatsoever on the season’s outcome, he was not retained by Los Angeles for 2008, and found himself with the York Revolution of the Independent League; only to have his season cut short by an injury. Tough break. So for a man with an unwarranted chip on his shoulder, who turned out to be quite mediocre; we salute you Shea Hillenbrand.

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