Despite accomplishments MU's Hillson looks to the future
There is very little that Harry Hillson hasn't accomplished during his time as Mansfield University baseball coach.
He has led the team to five PSAC titles. He has taken the Mountaineers to the NCAA Division II World Series three times and he was the fastest coach in PSAC history to reach nearly every milestone among victories.
However, it's not about the past for Hillson.
It's not about the past.
It's about the future, about winning another PSAC title. About earning another trip to the Division II World Series.
After the Mansfield coach joined an exclusive fraternity when he got his 800th victory last month, he was anxious to talk about how close the Mountaineers are to getting back to being a national power.
"We are this close," Hillson said as he held his fingers a fraction apart from each other. "We are this close to being contenders on a national stage."
For Hillson there was never a thought that one day he would get this many wins. He just did his job year after year and this is where he is now.
"I just take it one day at a time. One week at a time and it adds up after a while," Hillson said of the victories.
The one thing he is proud of is the stability he has helped be a part of at Mansfield where they have had just three managers in 48 years.
The one thing that the milestone meant for Hillson was a chance to hear from many of the players who have come through the program over the years.
"I didn't hear from any before, but after I got it I heard from a lot of people, some people I hadn't heard from in 20 years," Hillson said. "It made it special. I was getting a lot of text messages. A lot of messages on social media, things that didn't exist when I first started."
A lot has changed over his nearly three decades at the helm of the Mansfield baseball team, but the type of players who come to Mansfield are not among the things that have changed.
"It really hasn't changed that much," Hillson said. "The kids to me are the same. They are hard-nosed kids who like to play baseball. Those are the type of players who come here."
Year after year Hillson tries to keep his team among the best in the PSAC and year after year he watches other teams switch coaches.
"You just want to stay up with the Jonses in the conference and run the program in a good fashion," Hillson said. "The names have changed at a lot of schools, but the game stays the same."
Hillson knows that he has a good situation at Mansfield and that has allowed him to stick around for a long time.
"I am happy that I have good support from the administration," he said. "They really have supported me and this program over the years."
For Hillson sports have always been a big part of his life, but now that also includes watching his kids play.
One day he was winning his 800th game for the Mountaineers, another he was over watching his son Taylor close out an NTL win for Mansfield High School.
"It's a lot of fun," Hillson said of watching his kids play sports.
Watching sports at the youth and high school level just reminds Hillson about the love people have of the games.
"It's fun to see," he said. "You see how they enjoy the game, how much they are learning."
That's a big part of what makes coaching special for Hillson.
It's not just about the wins and losses, it's about the kids he has coached.
"I think back over some of the wins, and they are nice, but some of the best stuff is some of the trips and what happened on them," Hillson said. "The bus breaking down in Florida. The rain delays, the opening days and the world series experiences.
"Opening day, there is probably nothing better than the opening days."
This year's team is like many of the others that have come before them, a group that Hillson is proud to coach.
"This is a good group of guys," Hillson said. "Every day they do what they are asked to and they work hard. And, they are good citizens off the field and that's what it's all about."
While Hillson has over 800 wins he never takes a single one of those wins for granted.
He has had nearly three decades at Mansfield, but he knows the players get a much more limited time and so every victory is extremely special for them.
"The gig thing is every win is important," Hillson said. "Especially for the players, they are only here for four years. You want to make that time as special for the guys as you can."
The wins are nice.
The PSAC titles and trips to the college world series.
But, for Hillson the most important thing has always been the players who have made everything possible.
Brian Fees is the Sports Editor for The Daily Review.