Koyie Hill back in majors after saw accident
Just to be in a major league uniform -- any baseball uniform really -- seemed unlikely a little more than 10 months ago when Hill nearly lost three fingers and the thumb on his right hand in a table saw accident.
A specialist was able to reattach all four after they were severed and Hill made a miraculous comeback after hours of therapy and a long relearning process that included sessions with Triple-A Iowa hitting coach Von Josuha.
"I had to learn how to give high fives all over again. Everything is different," Hill said.
Hill was so determined to play again he said he considered having his pinkie that had been greatly damaged amputated so he could grip the ball better when he threw, an essential part of a catcher's game.
After a slow start in Triple-A that produced self doubts, Hill warmed up when the weather did. The first cold months were very difficult.
"I felt like I had frozen carrots for fingers," he said.
Hill played 36 games for the Cubs in 2007. This season, as he fought his way back, he found a way to not only throw with his rearranged hand where the fingers are still discolored and crooked, he was able to hit well after working with Joshua.
He batted .275 with 17 home runs and 64 RBI in 113 games for Iowa, earning a call back to the majors.
"I sat in a doctor's office here in Chicago in December and he looked right at me and said he didn't think I was going to play again. You got some of the best people (saying) `I just don't know, I don't see it, but good luck," Hill said.
"In the back of mind I always knew if I got the opportunity to play like I did, the Cubs kept me in the lineup down there, I knew I was going to be able to do it. I knew it was going to be hard and it looked ugly at the beginning."
Hill's dad is a carpenter and Hill had designs on being an architect. He'd used the table saw many times and on Oct. 16, 2007, was working on some wood for a window frame on his house when a part of it got stuck in the saw. The saw grabbed and Hill's hand was in the way.
"It cut my thumb off first, went through all the muscle in my thumb and it went back and turned and cut all four tendons and all four fingers and all four ligaments," he said.
"They sewed them all back on."
Now less than a year after the ordeal, Hill is the Cubs' third catcher in the final month, just happy to be in a pennant race and be playing baseball. When his days of playing are over, he said he might have to his ring finger taken off for good because it is giving him so much pain.
But at age 29, that's a long way off. Now he's just working every day with stretching exercises to keep his fingers as limber as possible.
"It was a long deal. We did three or four hours of therapy every day and you battle a lot of nightmares and ups and downs emotionally as far as your career," he said.
"I'm proud I've been able to overcome. Every day I got to keep on top of it. We feel like we got it under control for the most part."
In addition to purchasing Hill's contract Monday, the Cubs also activated right-hander Jon Lieber from the 15-day disabled list. They activated right-hander Angel Guzman from the 60-day disabled list and recalled right-hander Michael Wuertz and infielder Micah Hoffpauir from Triple-A Iowa. They also selected the contract of infielder Casey McGehee from Iowa.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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