“It’s In The Bone!”

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by @DimTillard

John McGraw, a Major League Baseball Player and famous MLB manager from the “Deadball Era” at the turn of the century, is credited with many things. (he helped invent the hit-and-run, the sacrifice bunt, the double steal, and the squeeze play)  But he was mostly known for his grit on the diamond.  A grittiness he later taught to his players.  And according to The Ultimate Baseball Book, he may be the first to call upon dirt as a medical treatment…

“We’d spit tobacco juice on a spike wound, rub dirt in it, and get out there and play.”

-John McGraw

  • One of the biggest over-all secrets of baseball is finding out what kind of a player you are…
  • Like what kind of pitcher you are?
  • Or what kind of hitter you are?
  • This also includes, how well do you know your body?
  • In baseball… injuries are part of the game.
  • Even with so much being done to try and avoid injuries, sadly no one is immune.
  • But all baseball players must learn which pains they can play through, and which pains they can’t.
  • When to tough it out like ol’ John McGraw, or when to see the trainer.

Fortunately, in my professional career, I’ve never been superstitious AND I’ve never missed a game due to injury… (knock on wood)  But growing up was a different story.  Every injury, I’ve sustained, in my life… has been from baseball.  However, these experiences have taught me the microscopic “good-side” to setbacks and injuries.

With each injury… (usually) comes a corresponding lesson.

1988:  While a 5 year old me was at Little League practice, I stood too close to a teammate swinging a bat.  (that black eye was epic)

Lesson:  Don’t stand behind or around people holding and swinging bats.  (don’t trust ’em)

1990:  While catching, I took my mask off to catch a pop-up foul near the fence. But the ball hit the fence just above my glove and smashed me in the nose.  (my face still doesn’t look right)

Lesson:  You may do everything correct, but remember to always anticipate.  (my anticipation level now is at:  borderline paranoia)

1992:  While running for a fly ball in my backyard baseball field, I ran into an orange tree.  (the low-lying branch ripped my Florida Gators tank top, and my pride)

Lesson:  No matter the situation, always be aware of your surroundings.  Head on a swivel.  (you never know when a tree will attack!)

1995:  While picking up balls during batting practice, a teammate hurled one my direction.  And even though I wasn’t looking, somehow it still hit me in the mouth.  (it took an oral surgeon to unattach my braces from my giant lip)

Lesson:  Sometimes… you just gotta wear it.

1999:  After pitching an 11-innings in a semi-pro game, on a makeshift mound in a field/pasture in Mississippi, my favorite toenail fell off and has been traumatized ever since. (we freakin won the game though!)

Lesson:  To win a game… sometimes it means losing a nail. (and throwing 148 pitches)

2001:  After a game, I damaged my left shoulder swinging too much while taking batting practice for pro scouts, surgery was needed.  (goodbye catching… hello pitching)

Lesson:  The work ethic I learned rehabbing my left arm, has helped me keep my right arm healthy for 14 seasons of pro ball.  (always take extremely good care of your throwing arm)

2002:  During a pop-up communication drill, my face received an ironic elbow from an over zealous, non-listening teammate.  (goodbye tooth… hello more scars)

Lesson:  It’s better to sound crazy screaming “I GOT IT!” way too loud, then it is to mess up a play, or mess up your face… again.

2003:  After I dinked a perfect double-play ball to the other team, I tried running down the baseline faster than my body had ever run!  But before I could get to first base, my hamstring gave up.

Lesson:  Sometimes you just gotta… do less.  (this has come to be known as the Triple-A motto)  do less

2009:  Cory Aldridge smashed MY slider… off MY ankle.  I still played, but I limped around for 2 months.  Also in 2009, during my last start of the season, Reggie Abercrombie blasted MY slider off MY hand… and broke it.

Lesson:  Sometimes… you need a better slider.

So back to 2003. I signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.  I was 19 and my whole life had led to that moment.  The Brewers had me a flight to their Arizona complex, so my dad drove me to the airport.

And this man… my trusted father, who played in the Major Leagues, who coached hundreds of professional baseball players, who taught me everything I know about the game, respected by so many in and around baseball, so full of knowledge and wisdom and glorious mustache…

…what kind of encouraging words or advice would this legend of a man give me, as I start my own journey in the baseball world?  He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said…

“Son, be nice to the clubbies… and stay out of the training room.”


“The Social Call-Up”

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by @DimTillard

If you think about it… a big part of baseball is waiting for calls.

  • call to the bullpen
  • called out
  • calling a ball
  • calling strikes (I’m big fan of strikes)
  • called-up:)
  • called-down:(
  • call me maybe?
  • calling interference, infield fly, foul ball, etc.
  • (and now there’s even more waiting with instant replay in Major League Baseball)

But on September 6th, 2016… I got a CALL I didn’t know I was waiting for…

When a mInor League season comes to an end each year in early September, every player has that HOPE of being summoned to the Major Leagues.  And whether the player’s season was a career year, a roller coaster ride, a lack luster cluster, or just an average grind… each guy has reasoned in his mind a scenario or justification that makes sense how a September call-up could happen.

In my 14 year career I’ve had every kind of season.  So not getting the call that sends me to The Bigs has in fact, happened before.  And being part of a Brewers Organization with just a plethora of young talent… the need for a veteran side-arm reliever simply wasn’t in their 2016 plans.  And so, after the last game in Iowa, and the last shuttle to the airport, and the last flight back to Denver, and the last bus ride back to Colorado Springs, I jumped in my car and headed directly home to Music City Tennessee.

(click here to see my video “End Of Season Drive”)

was in hour 12 of my 16 hour drive, when I got the call.  It was the Milwaukee Brewers’ Director of New Media, Caitlin Moyer.  She said the Brewers were interested in bringing me to Miller Park for the team’s last home stand for a “Social Media Call-Up.”  Strange… that’s a call-up I’ve never heard before.  Now at this time, I had been up for 32 straight hours straight… so part of me just thought I hallucinated that whole conversation.

But in fact it was real.  Since nothing like this (to my very limited knowledge) had ever been done before… there wasn’t exactly a description for this sort of job.  So naturally I agreed to this amazing (and slightly odd) opportunity, and then it was time to brainstorm ideas!  THEN, I needed to ask the Brewers permission to execute these new ideas.  It went something like this…

  • Me: “Can I run in the sausage race as Chorizo?”
  • Brewers: “Let us check… Yes.”
  • Me: “Can I slide down Bernie’s Slide?”
  • Brewers: “Let us check… Yes.”
  • Me: “Can I sprint around Miller Park like a crazy person?”
  • Brewers: “Yes.”
  • Me: “Can I interview coaches?”
  • Brewers: “Maybe.”
  • Me: “Can I climb the rock climbing wall in right field?”
  • Brewers: “Okay.”
  • Me: “Can I dubsmash with players and mascots?”
  • Brewers:Can you what?”
  • Me: “Can I put Bob Uecker in a video?”
  • Brewers: “Good luck.”
  • Me: “Can I have 50 bobbleheads?”
  • Brewers: “What?  Sure.”
  • Me: “Can I have a black cowboy hat, 3 beanie’s, a golf cart, security clearance, duct tape, 1 pair of yellow Chorizo socks, 7 giveaway t-shirts size XL, unlimited hot dogs, a large wooden crate, a minivan, access to the clubhouse, ketchup for my hot dogs, a dozen baseballs, tickets to the games, bullpen privileges, and an office… with a window?”
  • Brewers: “I think we can cover… some of that.”

And so, the #BrewersLastCallUp hashtag was born, and I had 6 unforgettable days in Milwaukee!

(NOW… click to watch “The Social Call-Up: Behind The Scenes”)


“Four A”

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by @DimTillard

  • In Minor League baseball, Free-Agent is just a fancy word for unemployed.  And when you’re still looking for a job when December rolls around… trepidation creeps in.  (fancy word for panic)
  • Every season has a AAAA group or “Four A”.  A collection of players who have some Major League service time, and lots of Minor League service time.
  • A group of players where the word prospect is no longer used, but replaced with journeyman. (and in some cases veteran… or crusty)
  • This cluster of experienced grinders played hard EVERYDAY last season, in hopes of getting a job for the next season.  All the while maintaining the goal of getting back on a Big League field.
  • Some of these “salty” players that can’t score a job for spring training, end up in independent ball. (teams unaffiliated with a MLB organization)  Others may find their way to a season in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Italy, or Mexico.  Guys do this to hopefully be seen and get picked up by a Major League affiliate.

So with my Four A membership:  I called, texted, emailed, twittered, Facebook stalked, smoke signaled, and Game of Thrones raven messaged ANYONE I knew in baseball that could help me land a job.

I contacted… (including but not limited to) General Managers, assistant GM’s, managers, coaches, coordinators, scouts, farm directors, field coordinators, clubhouse personnel, statisticians, bat boys, and at least 2 mascots.

After  months of “no’s” “maybe’s” & “This number is no longer in service” I had tried everything…

But my dad, former MLBer, former MiLB coach, and STILL current role model, told me to try one more thing.  He spoke of a tradition.  A tradition that has seemingly faded away in the age of technology.  The dying art of a handshake at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.

As the story goes, the winter meetings was once a place where players could see organization decision-makers face to face, and ask for a job.  A situation where people who love the game too much to give it up, “”randomly bump”” into baseball executives.  So…

Uninvited and determined, I walked into Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.  Armed with a homemade business card that read: “Tim Dillard RHP” (right-handed pitcher)

The massive indoor resort was filled with people from every realm of the baseball universe.  A circus complete with press conferences, interviews, speeches, tv shows, and award ceremonies.  (all of which could be accessed with proper credentials.  I had no such credentials)  So I just walked.

After parading around for an hour, I decided to stand at a strategically positioned walkway.  (between the Media Area, hotel rooms, and Starbucks of course)  And so for the next 6 hours I shook many new hands, hugged many old friends, and handed out many RHP cards.

Next day I stood in the same spot for 7 hours.  By this time people thought I worked there, and began asking me for directions.  I also successfully gave my information to a MLB stadium announcer… (I totally thought he was a coach)

Day 3 was more of the same.  “Take the left hallway at the top of the escalator, and Starbucks will be on your right.”  But after 20 hours of standing over 3 days, the winter meetings had come to a close; and I left for home.

Arguably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my 14 seasons…  More difficult than toeing a cinder block on a mound in Mexico.  More anxiety than playing independent ball.  More humbling than getting ejected from a Major League game.  And required more grit than continuing to throw strikes after giving up 9 hits in a row.

However, this last resort proved it’s worth, and once again landed a job in Minor League Spring Training with the Milwaukee Brewers!  On the other side of this experience I found something invaluable… thankfulness.  And THANKFULNESS trumps anxiety, fear, shame, and discouragement.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17


“2 Queen Size Beds”

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by @DimTillard

  • Over my 14 seasons of professional baseball, I’ve kept a key card from every hotel/motel I’ve stayed in. (minus the motel in Billings, Montana… they had real metal keys)
  • Hotels are part of the game.
  • Minor League teams play a 140 game schedule.  That’s 70 at home, and 70 on the road.  So the “hotel equation” is as follows…
  • 70 nights on the road + spring training + a few random stays = 1/3 of the year living in hotels.
  • Every player in the minor leagues also has a road roommate.
  • My career statistics at MiLB.com have my number of hotel “road roomies” somewhere between 74 and 91. (it’s listed in-between E.R.A. and balks)
  • Having a roomy keeps it interesting.
  • AND I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences as a minor leaguer living in hotels…

2003  When my roommate was past curfew, I made a “fake” sleeping roommate out of pillows to trick the hitting coach checking curfew.  Later that night I was awoken when my roommate yelled, “Get the hell outta my bed!”

2004  I shot a bottle rocket from my hotel room into a parking lot and nearly hit a cop car.  The officer confiscated my fireworks.  Apparently in the state of Wisconsin it’s legal to buy bottle rockets, but illegal to light them without a permit.

2005  At a Comfort Inn & Suites in Jupiter Florida, I drug an extremely heavy entertainment center from one room to my room.  The tv was bolted to it, and we needed 2 tv’s to play Halo on Xbox.  (4 on 4 no screenjacking)

2006  Next to an old motel in Kodak, Tennessee there sits an ironic gas station/fireworks store.  During an in-room Bible study, a smoke bomb was tossed through our doorway completely filling the room with smoke.  However, the most disturbing thing was that neither the sprinkler nor the smoke alarm went off.

2007  From my hotel room window, I witnessed a future Cy Young Award winner try to swim across the Missouri River.

2008  After my MLB debut in Washington DC, a mistaken fan in the hotel lobby asked me to sign his Ben Sheets baseball cards… so I did.

2009  When the team arrived at the hotel in Memphis… after a 7 hour post-game bus trip from Oklahoma City, we were met by 30 boxes of pizza, 30 bottles of soda, and 1 Trevor Hoffman on rehab assignment.

2010  My 1 year old son took his first steps at a spring training hotel… just moments before my wife told me she was pregnant.

2011  As my roommate and I were leaving the team hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we were grabbed by police.  They pulled us away from the lobby, and told us there was a man waving a gun on the 3rd floor.  (it wasn’t Walter White)

2012  The clubhouse in Las Vegas used to give away free food vouchers for one of the hotel’s restaurants.  I recklessly managed to eat a 5 course meal, 3 times a day, for 4 days!

2013  My hotel room in Campeche, Mexico sported an 11″ televisión, tile floors, a window, and a portable closet safe.  (FYI… The Simpsons may be even funnier in Español)

2014  The Venezuelan government shut down the power to the city.  Two days in a hotel without a phone, internet, or twitter was very excruciating. (oh yeah my wife back in the U.S.A. was also concerned)

2015  Mark Wahlberg was starring in a movie being filmed at our hotel in New Orleans!  He ignored me when I tried yelling at him from down the hallway.  “Hey Wahlberg!  You’re not a good enough actor to act like you can’t hear me!” 

2016  After a day game, I made a dubsmash video of “Hotel California”… while in a hotel in California.  (the air guitar was real, and so were the random high school field-trip kids in the lobby)

“Housekeeping, you want mint for pillow?”



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  • During the 2011 Major League Baseball Playoffs I met Tim Kurkjian!  Though, I had been impersonating him around clubhouses for years, this was our first encounter. (at least him knowing my name anyway)
  • Sitting in front of my Brewers locker in Milwaukee, I couldn’t help but notice an investigative Kurkjian slip into the clubhouse.  He seemed like a man on a mission, walking around examining names above the lockers.
  • Eventually, he read the name above me, and then fixed his eyes on the nervous sideburn infested pitcher below it.  “Are you Tim Dillard?” squeaked the adolescent-pitched analyst.
  • “I am.” I said, as I leapt from my chair and outstretching my hand.  “How freakin cool is this?!” was my first thought.  My second thought was “I should say something else, I’m creeping him out with my grin!”
  • After I gave his hand back, Tim clutched his small notepad and said, “I heard you do a pretty good impersonation of me.”  (insert “Embarrassed Face” emoji)

Suddenly I felt a lot of blood rushing to my face.

FAST-FORWARD to 2012.  MLB Spring Training is highlighted every year by the ESPN Baseball Tonight Express Tour Bus that visits all 30 teams.  While on the tour, host Tim Kurkjian found himself being imitated by different players all over baseball.  I thought it was HILARIOUS until some teammates wanted me to do my impersonation on national television… and then… I just felt ill.

Since I had solidified myself as a “no-name” player in professional baseball, I was convinced ESPN had more important things to cover.  So when Baseball Tonight showed up at Brewers camp early one morning, I wasn’t worried.  As I entered the clubhouse about 6:45am I was met by the Brewers Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo.  “Hey Dilly, how’s it going?  Aaron Boone and Tim Kurkjian are here, and they want you to make fun of Kurkjian on air in like 15 minutes.” Mike said very nonchalantly.  Wait… What? (insert “Hurl Face” emoji)

You know that sinking feeling in your stomach when you’ve locked your keys in the car OR once again ate too much gas station sushi?  I didn’t know what to do!  I needed help!  I needed something funny to say!  I needed my think tank!

Enter John Axford and Kameron Loe.  As they walked in the clubhouse, I stopped ’em and begged for help.  Seeing my current state of desperation, they laughed at the situation and then started brainstorming.  Loe suggested we make up a crazy statistic, and Axford started spitballing names for it.  With only minutes left before being on-air, someone blurted out “I.M.P.L.A.T.S.” and we all laughed.  Armed with an obscure stat with little or no meaning I walked outside.

Before I knew it, I was meeting the show’s producer, shaking Kurkjian’s hand again, and meeting Aaron Boone!  I wanted to tell Boone he was my first strike out in the Big Leagues, but there wasn’t time for that. (self-five!)  Nyjer Morgan took center-stage for his previous season playoff heroics.

The producer of Baseball Tonight gave me instructions to stand off-camera, walk into the interview, and take the microphone from Mr. Kurkjian on his cue.  That seemed pretty audacious for me to do, so I began to suggest something else when I heard, “3…2…1…”  (insert “Anguished Face” emoji)

As the segment was underway, the producer motioned for me to enter the screen.  50% excited and 70% nervous, I shook my head in a “please no” kind of way.  He signaled me again, and again I hesitated.  I think he was getting unhappy with me so I walked into the scene


To this day, I’ve never met anyone with more love and passion for their job and for baseball, than Tim Kurkjian.