Fatherhood for Cubs' Hill a constant joy
Catcher's oldest daughter is an enthusiastic baseball fan
CHICAGO -- Koyie Hill likes to call his oldest daughter, Phoenix, a little gypsy because she's traveled so much with the catcher and his wife, Meghan, as part of his baseball life.
"It's so tough on the kids, all the traveling and things they have to do," said Hill, the Cubs' catcher, who has played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. "If it's hard for you to move from place to place and suitcases and whatever, it's even harder and more random for the kids. They have to adjust."
Meghan was pregnant with Phoenix when Hill was with the Dodgers in 2004. He was traded to Arizona in July '04, broke his ankle, and had to play winter ball. Phoenix was a road warrior, and went everywhere.
Their baseball home is now in Chicago, near Wrigley Field, but when Hill was playing in Des Moines for Triple-A Iowa, he saw a chance to surprise his eldest daughter. The Famous Chicken was coming to town for a game, and kids in the crowd were picked to take part in one of the mascot's dance routines.
"I was thinking, 'What a great little treat if she could be a 'chick,'" Hill said. "I've seen kids do it before. At least it would give them something to look forward to. She loves going to the ballpark and loves the family room. Our apartment [in Chicago] overlooks the stadium, and as soon as she sees people in the stadium, whether it's an hour before or two hours before, she's on Meghan that it's time to go. Meghan says, 'No, we have a couple hours,' and Phoenix will say, 'People are there.'"
Phoenix apparently had no problem with the yellow outfit she had to wear or being on stage in front of a full house at Principal Park in Des Moines.
"She was doing her moves perfect up until she saw me," Hill said, "and then I remember her coming up to me and she was standing there and she was so giddy, she goes, 'Hey, Daddy, I'm a chick.' Like she needed to tell me. She gave me a big ol' hug and it was perfect.
"The whole dugout and everybody on the team was saying if they remembered anything from the season -- and we had a good season -- it was that," Hill said. "That was special to me."
Hill, 30, who will celebrate Father's Day with daughters Phoenix, 5, and Charley, almost 2, cherishes those moments.
"With my girls, there's so much of ourselves that we see in them," he said. "It's a perfect combination of my wife and I, and when you see that, it's more special. You have so much love and respect for each other as people, and to see it in your kids is a lot of fun."
Phoenix is quite the extrovert.
"Phoenix could walk in [the clubhouse] and would know everybody's name and be everybody's buddy in five minutes," Hill said. "She's full-scale everything. Charley is a little more reserved. She'll wait you out a little bit and get a little feel for what she thinks, and then she'll open up. Phoenix, she could be the greeter at Wal-Mart any day of the week."
Meghan was eight months pregnant with Charley in the 2007 offseason when Hill suffered a freak accident. A woodworker, he severed three of his fingers and the thumb of his right hand in a table saw accident at his home. Phoenix was a little panicked.
"All they knew was they could see bones and blood," Hill said. "How do you react? No matter what your dad does, whether he has a very important job that the family depends on or he doesn't, you still react the same way because it's your dad. I think she was trying to put it all together. I had my hand behind my back, and I was sweet-talking her. 'Everything's fine, it's OK.'
"Now, she'll hold my hand sometimes when we're walking and she'll ask me if it's OK," he said. "She'll pat it. She'll look at it, and say, 'You OK?' It's genuine questions.
"I think she's heard enough stories and been around enough that she's put it all together," he said. "I know every parent thinks their kid is smart, but if there is a grade or way to keep score, I think she'd do pretty good."
Hill admits he's a little biased about his daughter, but that's what Dads do. Plus, Phoenix has apparently adjusted well to baseball life. She calls Cubs infielder Mike Fontenot by his nickname, "Chicken," and calls outfielder Micah Hoffpauir "Hoffy." Infielder Bobby Scales stayed with the Hills when he was called up, and Phoenix would sit on his bed at 6 a.m. to wait for him to wake up so she could talk to him.
"We had to tell her to scale it back a little bit," Hill said of the early morning wakeup call.
Being on the road hasn't been too much of a problem for Hill, although he said his daughters are sad when he leaves town with the Cubs. And he has no regrets that there are no boys in the house.
"I honestly feel like I have twin boys," he said. "They are just as rough and tumble, and we play all the time."
The girls like to play soccer, pillow fight, and run around Wrigley Field. That's a good life.
Hill will probably make breakfast for the family on Father's Day, with Phoenix's help, of course. The girls usually draw pictures for him.
"[Being a dad] is a blast," he said. "Every day there's something that makes you smile. [The game] can get frustrating -- you're tired, you have to deal with a lot of stuff, you want to relax, there are things you want to do. It's hard to stay in any other place than with them when you're home. It definitely helps.
"There are times when you wish you had done better [in the game], but are you trying any harder when you get three hits or when you get zero?" he said. "You go home and enjoy your family. The kids don't care. I was doing an interview the other day. Just out of the blue, Phoenix said, 'Dad, I saw you talking to that man on TV.' They always ask if we won. They're just in [the family room] playing around, and all of a sudden I show up.
"If Phoenix tells me once, she tells me 100 times every day, that I'm the No. 1 best Cubbie in the whole world," he said. "Every day. She thinks I'm the best, so that's all I care about."
Which makes Father's Day every day.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.