PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks’ Aaron Hill became the first second baseman in major league history to win a Silver Slugger award in each league when he was named the National League winner Thursday.
It was an easy choice, as Hill led NL second basemen in doubles, triples, home runs and RBIs while hitting a career-high .302.
Being close to home helped bring it all together, Hill said.
“My family is happy — start with that,” he said. “A family, that’s pure love. That may sound funny, but the more positive stuff you have around you, the more positive energy that you will turn out.
“It was a fun year to have people close to us. When family is very important to us, it’s great to be able to be around them. You surround yourself with good people, good things are going to happen to you.”
Hill spent his first full season in Arizona in 2012 after being acquired from Toronto the previous August. He spent his first six years with the Blue Jays, winning the 2009 AL Silver Slugger award with a career-high 36 homers. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are natives of the Visalia, Calif., area, and the proximity makes it easier on family travel.
Hill had 44 doubles, six triples, 26 homers, 85 RBI and 14 stolen bases while playing in a team-high 156 games last season. The success generated talk of a possible contract extension after he signed a two-year, $11 million deal that will take him through 2013.
Manager Kirk Gibson seemingly had to pry Hill’s hands away from his glove just to give him those six games off. Before an August doubleheader against the Marlins, Hill let Gibson know in no uncertain terms that he expected to play in both. Hill did, and he did well, going a combined 3-for-6, with a homer and three RBI in the first game and a stolen base in the second.
Just messing around later in the season, Gibson texted Hill, saying he planned to give him a couple of days off in the final few weeks.
“He begged me not to,” Gibson recounted with a smile. “He wanted to play all the games, which is just Aaron Hill. He is bored if he is not playing baseball. He just loves to play the game, and he knows the standards he holds himself to.
“That’s why you see him play with so much consistency.”
Hill, 30, became the second player in modern major league history to hit for the cycle twice in the same season when he did it this past season, joining Babe Herman of the 1931 Brooklyn Dodgers. Hill did it twice in a span of 12 days, against the Mariners on July 18 and in Milwaukee on July 29. He also had a stolen base against the Brewers.
“I found a nice routine,” Hill said. “It was nice to stay healthy the whole year. The last couple of years, got hurt early. There is no excuse to a bad year. It’s nice to go through a year that you feel good, you feel healthy. You find your routine and you stick with it. It’s a fun place to be.”
Hill is the 14th second baseman to win the award multiple times since it was first presented in 1980. Alfonso Soriano also won in both leagues, but not as a second baseman. He won the award three times in the AL at second base and once in the NL as an outfielder.
Hill is the fifth D-backs player to win a Silver Slugger. Luis Gonzalez won in 2001, when he finished third in the NL MVP voting following a 57-homer year. Justin Upton was honored in 2011, as was pitcher Daniel Hudson. Pitcher Micah Owings won in 2007.
“There is no aspect of the game that he can’t do,” Gibson said of Hill as the season wound down. “He can hit-and-run. He can hit behind a guy. He can hit a ball out of the ballpark. Certainly we know he can hit doubles. He can steal a base. He’s a baseball rat.
“He’s really come out this year. He loves it here. He is comfortable here.”