A newspaper article on the wall of his bedroom still serves as inspiration for Darius Hill. It’s about Josh Bell, the former Jesuit outfielder who now is one of the top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Hill grew up admiring Bell, and when he entered Jesuit as a freshman, he gravitated toward the same spot in center field that Bell patrolled before being a second-round pick in the 2011 Major League Baseball draft.
Now a senior, Hill is following capably in Bell’s footsteps. The left-handed hitter has received numerous All-American accolades, has traveled for all-star games throughout the country, and has already signed to play in college next season at West Virginia.
Hill and the Rangers will start the season today when they play Klein to open a weekend tournament in Bryan-College Station. They will return home next weekend to host the annual Jesuit Classic tournament, and will start District 9-6A play on March 17 against Sunset.
Last season, Hill was among the top hitters in the Dallas area with a .515 average along with four home runs and 39 runs batted in. He also stole 11 bases and led the Rangers to the second round of the playoffs.
Jesuit head coach Brian Jones credits Hill’s level of commitment and work ethic as reasons for his success.
“Those are things that you don’t teach,” Jones said. “It’s the baseball version of a gym rat. You have to turn the lights off and lock the gate before he goes home.”
Hill almost was a gym rat. Basketball has always been his second sport, and his father, Eddie, played at Washington State in the early 1990s.
“Baseball is definitely the thing for me,” Hill said. “I’ve always had raw ability but I’ve been able to manifest that by working hard and never being content.”
Although Hill draws the most headlines, he’s not the only reason why the Rangers have hopes for a deep playoff run this spring. Jesuit has a handful of key contributors returning from a squad that suffered a heartbreaking loss to Rockwall in the Class 5A Region II area playoffs a year ago.
Junior pitcher and outfielder Kyle Muller already is verbally committed to Texas, and is one of three pitchers on the roster with at least 25 innings of varsity experience. First baseman Nic Ready and catcher Bryce Bonner also are back on a seasoned roster that stems in part from the Rangers having started four sophomores two years ago.
“We’ve got some talented kids and we’ve got a lot of depth,” Jones said. “Every year, we want to take that next step. As long as we win, they don’t care who gets the credit.”
Plus, the Rangers have extensively renovated their home field to include an all-turf field and state-of-the-art batting cages. The setup resembles many college parks.
“I don’t know if we can, but I’d like to fly under the radar,” Jones said. “But it helps if people can see the facilities and see the success of the program.”