Should the York Revolution make the Atlantic League playoffs, a big piece of the credit pie could very well go to someone who won't be around to enjoy it.
Shea Hillenbrand's time in York was rather short -- just shy of six weeks -- but his impact on and off the field could be lasting.
One of the biggest signings in the franchise's short history, Hillenbrand left the club Aug. 14. He was put on the inactive list prior to Saturday night's game against Camden.
The official reason was a hamstring injury, which Hillenbrand went home to Arizona to rehabilitate with his personal trainer. However, the Revs organization is not holding its collective breath expecting his return. He hit .340 in 36 games, with two home runs and 25 RBIs.
Hillenbrand's mere presence in the Revs clubhouse brought him a measure of respect from his teammates the first time he walked through the doors on July 2.
But it was Hillenbrand's willingness to share with them his knowledge of the game that may pay dividends going forward, as the Revs battle for the Freedom Division's second-half crown and a spot in the postseason.
Entering play Sunday, York was 24-18 and four games up on Newark.
Hillenbrand was seen giving batting tips to Kazu Tanaka and Jason Aspito, among others, during pregame batting practice.
Keoni DeRenne, especially, was influenced greatly by Hillenbrand's short stay. The former major leaguer and two-time all-star took DeRenne under his wing, at a time when the Revs shortstop was really struggling.
"I first met Shea in the 2004 offseason, and I worked out with him for about eight weeks," said DeRenne, who counts fellow Hawaiian and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino among his close friends in baseball.
"When he came here, he really took me under his wing. He took me to dinner almost every single night, here and on the road. It wasn't that I asked -- he offered. "I went along because I wanted to know, know about baseball. He told me to just trust my ability, trust my instincts. It's not going to happen overnight, but the more you prepare yourself, the more consistent you're going to be on a day-to-day basis.
"He helped me out with my swing, helped me out mentally. We would leave the field, and not talk about only baseball. We'd talk about life, about not taking the game home with you." Shortly after Hillenbrand's arrival, DeRenne reversed a season-long slump at the plate by hitting .380 over a two-week stretch starting July 13, and along with Kennard Jones helped reignite the top of the Revs' order.
"Shea took care of me more than just about anyone else on the ballclub, and I miss him."
Aspito was another player who absorbed Hillenbrand's advice.
"He brought that big league hitter mentality, professional hitter, don't try to do too much, just get the job done," Aspito said. "Look at the situational hitting. If he needed to get a guy from second base to third base, or get a guy in from third with less than two outs, he had to be about .750. And a lot of guys picked up on that, knowing that that's how we're supposed to play the game, and that's how you get to the next level.
"You don't do what he's done in the game and not earn that respect."
Manager Chris Hoiles appreciated Hillenbrand's influence on his club.
"I thought he brought a lot to the table all the way around," the skipper said. "Not just offensively, but defensively. The clubhouse atmosphere and how to approach the game, the preparation. He was a vocal guy. When you needed to be put in your place, he did it."
Hoiles agreed that there was a correlation between Hillenbrand's time on the Revs and the club playing its best baseball of late.
"Yeah, you have to do that," he said. "While he was here, we did turn it around. Was it him solely? No, I don't think so. The makeup of this club, by bringing in some of the guys we did, dramatically turned this club around before he got here, but obviously with his addition, there was a lot of talk in the cages and a lot of mechanical stuff going on, and a lot of the guys got going after that. "So yes, you could make that correlation."