MLB Trade Rumors has held an open forum with former baseball players, giving fans a chance to ask questions about their respective careers. Seven-year veteran and former SF Giants infielder Shea Hillenbrand was invited earlier this week to answer any and all questions.
Veteran third baseman lists surprising SF Giants player as most supportive teammate
The veteran infielder was selected in the 10th round of the 1996 draft by the Boston Red Sox out of Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona. He debuted with the club in 2001 and his career got off to a promising start.
Hillenbrand was selected to the AL All-Star team in two of his first five seasons. He was in the midst of a strong campaign in 2006, slashing .301/.342/.480 (110 OPS+) with 12 home runs and 39 RBI before being shipped to San Francisco along with reliever Vinnie Chulk in exchange for Jeremy Accardo.
At the time of the trade, the Giants were 51-47, so they were positioned to reach the playoffs, especially considering that Barry Bonds was still on the roster. However, they struggled down the stretch and finished with a 76-85 record, which was good enough for third place in the NL West.
The addition of Hillenbrand did not move the needle in the way that the front office had hoped. Following the trade, the right-handed bat registered a .248/.275/.415 line (74 OPS+) with just nine home runs and 29 RBI. He became a free agent following that season, and finished his seven-year career with brief stints with the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeleds Dodgers in 2007.
In his open forum, he discussed his playing career as well as his struggles with mental health, so it is well worth the read. Interestingly, he was asked about who the most supportive player was in his career and he responded with Barry Bonds.
During Bonds' illustrious 22-year career, it was often believed that he had an unfavorable impact in the clubhouse. However, Hillenbrand's response sheds some light on how the left-handed slugger acted as a mentor during Hillenbrand's brief stint in San Francisco.
The former infielder added that Bonds was a great teacher and that his knowledge and passion were invaluable. The fact about Bonds' knowledge of the game should come as no surprise given that he had one of the most productive careers in baseball history.
Unfortunately, Bonds fell off of the Hall of Fame ballot in his 10th and final attempt earlier this week as he failed to gain the 75 percent needed for induction. Nevertheless, Hillenbrand's nugget about his former teammate gives a little extra context that was not commonly known.