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Jun. 23—Some folks were thinking of a different Rich Hill.

The 41-year-old lefty by that name isn’t a college baseball coach, at least not yet. He’s still pitching for Tampa Bay, his 10th team in a 17-season major league career. And although David Matlin is a very proud Michigan Man, the Hawaii athletic director was not under the impression he was hiring the former Wolverine as the new UH skipper.

Matlin knows THIS Rich Hill has enjoyed a long career in baseball, too—but most of it as a winning college head coach, at Cal Lutheran and the University of San Diego. The former infielder has been running teams since the other Rich Hill was playing tee ball.

The new UH coach said enough people were confused over the years that he went by “Richard ” for a while, but now he just rolls with it.

“I tell them I’m the Rich Hill without the blister, ” referring to when the pitcher with his name was pulled from a 2016 game after seven perfect innings for the Dodgers (the Marlins broke up the no-hitter, but the Dodgers won ). He had more late-inning bad luck the following season when he took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Pirates but ended up losing in the 10th.

“We actually met a while back when I was coaching in the Cape Cod League, and he was there for an alumni event, ” the new UH coach said. “He said he tells people he’s the young Rich Hill, and we both laughed.”

If you watched Hill’s intro to the Hawaii media you might find that funny, too—because he displayed infectious youthful energy on the Zoom meet-up uncommon for 58-year-old baseball guys, even those wanting to make a good first impression at a new job.

“It’s no act, ” said Terry Derby, who has known Hill for 40 years. “He always has that enthusiasm. If anything, it’s more with age.”

Speaking of names, During his intro talk, Hill rattled off seven or eight of them belonging to former UH stars from the Rainbow glory years, most from the early 1980s.

That was no act, either. Dropping names often backfires because it can seem contrived, relationships exaggerated. But that’s not what this was. Hill brought up names that helped him channel the good old days—not just UH’s, his, too. Even though he started his college playing career with Hawaii’s archrival San Diego State, several of them—Derby, Joey Meyer and Mario Monico—were his summer ball teammates in Liberal, Kan.

“I was the only Aztec, with a bunch of’Bows. I don’t think they liked our (SDSU ) coach (Jim Dietz ) very much. But it was great, ” Hill said. “It was old-school. Play baseball, work on our skills, and everybody became friends.”

For Hill—who always enjoyed the water—and the guys from Hawaii, landlocked Kansas didn’t offer much recreation away from the diamond. Hill does remember gracious host families, one of which shared the latest and greatest computer gaming experience in 1981.

“I played a lot of Pong, ” he said.

The baseball was exciting, though.

“We were good, ” Derby said. “The competition was unreal, got to hit against Roger Clemens. We had great pitchers like Calvin Schiraldi and Doug Drabek. We came in second in the NBC, which is like the World Series of summer baseball. Rich fit in with us, as a player and a great guy.

“I never played with a guy or coached against a guy that fast, ” Hill said of Derby.

Hill and Derby stayed in touch, and when the Toreros came to play against UH a few years ago, Hill spoke to the team at Damien Memorial, where Derby was the coach.

“He gave our boys a lot of his time, even though he was on a busy schedule, ” Derby said. “He knows about all our UH baseball tradition and loves Hawaii. I was very excited to hear he was going for this job and got it. I think he’s a perfect fit.”

Once you’re Hill’s friend he doesn’t forget you, even if you met when you were 8 years old.

“That dude was always a great guy, is a great guy, ” said Andrew Silberman, who graduated with Hill from Saratoga (Calif.) High School in 1980.

Ten years before that they were teammates on the first organized sports team for both.

“My childhood buddy, ” Hill said. “My dad and his dad were the coaches.”

In addition to baseball, Hill played wide receiver and safety on the Saratoga football team, which dominated the San Jose-Santa Clara area in the late 1970s and early’80s.

“He’s one of those guys that even if you don’t get to see each other for a long time the friendship is even stronger, ” said Silberman, who worked as a recruiter at Hawaii Pacific University in the 1980s before moving to Japan.

“I thought he was set in San Diego, but good for him, ” Silberman said.

Hill made one of his strongest Hawaii connections when longtime Punahou coach Pal Eldredge brought his team to play Saratoga.

Eldredge helped Hill choose a tattoo that would inspire his players and reflect his love for Hawaii. It is a quote from Queen Kapiolani.

“I got it done here in San Diego, so I called Keoni Ruth (a former USD player from Kamehameha ) and his mom, Lynn, to make sure I didn’t mess it up, ” Hill said.

It says, “K ūlia i ka nu’u, ” which translates to “Strive to reach the summit.”

Hill had it inscribed on his upper left arm about five years ago. Now, “I can’t wait to wear Hawaii across my chest, ” he said.