Michael Hill, the President of Operations for the Florida Marlins, hasn’t had many strikeouts in his life. His rise to success hasn’t been easy, but he has met every challenge with faith, determination, and strategic thinking.Hill comes from a middle class, Cuban-African American family from Cincinnati, Ohio. He credits his parents’ faith, hard work, and zeal for transforming him into the person he is today. He hails from a long line of faith–his grandfather was a Baptist preacher for 48 years and his brother, Ben, is also a Baptist minister in Atlanta, GA.
Sports have always been an integral part of Michael’s life, especially football and baseball in high school. But while being a two-way athlete was exciting, excelling in educate and faith are what mattered most to his family. If Hill didn’t work hard for good grades, he wasn’t allowed to play sports–he saw that in action when his parents prohibited his older brother, Ben, from playing when his grades weren’t where they should be. The motto in Hill’s family was “Do what you have to do first, and then you get the chance to do what you want to do.”
Faith at a Crossroads
That motto contributed to Hill’s overwhelming success at Harvard University, where he also played baseball. After graduating, he was drafted in the 31st round by the Texas Rangers in 1993, but Hill would soon meet an injury that caused him to reevaluate his life-long ambition of a spot in the Hall of Fame. He was at a crossroads—pursue the dream or focus on something different?
Most athletes would have given up after suffering a career ending injury that kept them from reaching their dream. But not Hill. Hill believes you can only move forward by being able to face obstacles, and being at peace with what you cannot control. He doesn’t spend much time thinking about what he can’t control, but instead has faith in God and lets go. He truly believes that his faith guides him even when it doesn’t make sense. He decided that since he still wanted to be in baseball, working in the front office was the best option. Although it may not have always made sense when he was younger, the focus to remain strong in his faith and pursue his education paid off. After his playing days were over, Michael landed a job with the Tampa Bay Rays’ front office as a scouting assistant in 1995. As a player among big-league talent, he knew what a club would need, and he put his knowledge to woks a scouting assistant and in the player development department.
After five years in Tampa, he spent three seasons with the Colorado Rockies as director of player development before his big move to the Miami Marlins in 2002. As assistant general manager, he saw the Marlins through to a 2003 championship and has the ring to prove it, which he only wears on special occasions—and when he’s needing some inspiration and vision. He then served as Marlins’ general manager, and vice president, and in 2013, was promoted to President of Baseball Operations. Michael Hill became the only President of Baseball Operations in MLB from Cuban-African American descent.
Attitude is Everything
With twenty years in the business of baseball, one of the skills Hill has gained is the ability to thrive in the highly competitive culture of professional sports. He has learned to avoid the negative energy, especially amid the pressure of player negotiations. Hill has a three-step process for dealing with negotiations: First, be informed of the dealings and contracts of the players. Don’t miss a beat. Second, intelligently employ the art of negotiating. It’s a skill of keeping your cool and sticking to the facts. And third, Hill says, be fair with players. The key is to put aside emotions and stick with the facts: be informed, listen, and be fair.
Sometimes, even when you have all the facts, negotiating just doesn’t add up, and that’s okay. Hill’s faith helps him through those times. And his selfless attitude doesn’t hurt, either. According to Hill, it’s only when you have a selfless attitude that you are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to being part of a team. Almost everything we do in life revolves around being part of a team of some kind or another. But Hill is in the baseball business, and when asked what makes a good team, he says that being able to sacrifice for the team and knowing your place in it is key. A good team not only has to desire to be selfless, but they also have to avoid envy and jealousy.
Hill not only believes what he preaches, he lives it as well. He is involved in the training and mentoring of over one hundred children and teens in the Miami are a through the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. The school-based program reaches out to at-risk boys in the community through supportive relationships. and role models to prepare them for success. He loves the community of Miami, and believes that the team is only as good as they are at giving back to the city.
His brother, Ben, says that working hard and giving back has always been who Michael is, whether it’s training for a marathon or conducting business for the Marlins. Ben says Michael always delivers and puts his heart into whatever he is doing. Michael doesn’t take his family, who are his biggest fans, for granted. In fact, he makes it clear that without them he wouldn’t be who he is today—a man of selflessness and faith.