The last of the baseball players trickle out of Miller Park late one evening in the middle of February after a late practice, and that is when Brian Hill closes up his shed for the night. He did not get a chance to rake the dirt that day, but he is the master of getting the work done between all the team and individual practices that take place nearly 250 days of the year.
As the sun sets, Hill takes off his earmuffs and starts his pickup truck, the license plate JSTOSM — a family joke — reminding him that he is going home to a family that is “just awesome.”
Hill, the grounds supervisor who maintains Miller Park and Gail Miller Park, does not let the frequent use of the field be an excuse to fall short of fulfilling his duties. Even though he cannot always work on the field because of the players, he diligently mows, fertilizes, rakes and paints the field and infield all year long.
The work he does on the field is only a small reflection of the work he does to raise a family. Hill may work with all men, but he and his wife Karen raised only girls. They have four daughters of their own, adopted a fifth and provided home and family life to countless other foster daughters.
“Family and relationships are the ultimate,” Hill said. “Because of them, I’m the wealthiest man in the world.”
The family Hill raised may be full of only girls, but it never stops growing and Hill counts himself as the lucky one.
“I’m so fortunate to have daughters,” Hill said. “Even after our second daughter, it didn’t bother me. I can still do things with them. I got them nerf hoops and we could still play catch. I see now at my age that they think about me and care about me and want me involved with their children.”
Early in their marriage, the Hills decided to participate in foster care. Some of their extended family members had started doing it, and it piqued their interest when they saw the importance of raising children who needed help and more quality family lives.
“I was a Tupperware saleslady and I was really, really bad so I realized I needed to just go home and be a mom,” said Hill’s wife, Karen. “I was just absolutely shocked at how many families needed help. You live under the impression that nothing bad happens in Utah Valley, but the reality is that one out of every four families need some kind of intervention.”
Hill and his wife began raising a family of both biological and foster children, a choice they never regretted.
“We chose not to wait, and what a blessing that was,” Hill said. “It’s something we were willing to do, and looking back now, I’m so glad we didn’t wait.”
When one daughter after another kept coming, Hill was able to put into practice a principle he learned early in his childhood.
“One principle I was raised with was a respect for women,” said Hill. “I knew there was only one thing that could incur the death penalty from my father, and that was if I offended my sister or my mother.”
The guiding principle of respect for women has carried over to Hill’s maintenance of the baseball field, despite the fact that his entire student crew and the other full-time employees on Grounds are primarily men.
“He has that respect for womanhood, and it’s one of the deeper sides of Brian,” said Glen Wear, Hill’s supervisor and the landscape specialty manager at BYU. “He deeply internalizes things, and he does his very best to apply gospel principles to his everyday life.”
The students who work on his crew benefit from Hill’s love for the gospel and his ability to turn even a baseball field into a classroom.
Steve Rowe, a student who has worked for Hill for two years, says he has learned more from Hill than just how to mow a field or maintain the dirt on the infield.
“He’s not shy to bring up the gospel, so one thing I’ve really learned from him is that Heavenly Father really loves us and knows us personally,” Rowe said. “We can sit back and pass judgment, but we don’t really know what’s going on, but Heavenly Father does.”
Hill’s wife said even though she has never talked with her husband’s employees, she knows he takes advantage of the teaching opportunities he learned from raising daughters to help the students on his crew.
“He understands where they’re coming from and where they need to be moving too,” Karen said. “And in basic life skills, he teaches them about interacting with each other and responsibility and dependability.”
Despite the serious teaching environment Hill creates among the tractors and rakes, he still maintains a fun work atmosphere.
“Brian’s only weakness is his love for sweets,” Rowe said. “Whenever we want to get a break at work, we just bring donuts and set them on the table and next thing we know, Brian’s not paying attention.”
Hill said he appreciates his students and depends on them to get the work done. Hard work is important, but Hill said there is more to reaching a goal then just checking tasks off the list.
“I try not to get worked up if we don’t get things done,” Hill said. “Priorities ebb and flow with baseball and softball, but there’s always tomorrow.”
Wear said noticed the same quality about Hill in his work and praised Hill’s ability to see the big picture while not neglecting the details.
“He teaches his students on a level they can understand until they grasp that particular assignment and then expands their horizons,” Wear said. “He does that better than anyone else on Grounds.”
Hill’s wife said she knows this is another principle he learned from making his family a priority.
“He does a really good job teaching the young adults that work for him as much as he does as a parent,” she said. “He wants to teach them that to get anywhere in life, you have to work hard. You may expect things to be handed to you, but your own self-worth needs to be internalized.”
Working on the baseball and softball fields whenever he can brings Hill happiness, but he said he will never forget the importance of family.
“Some people think helping to raise the kids is not a very manly thing to do, but it shows the value of paying the price to live by the correct principles,” Hill said. “Not only do you reap the blessings, but you lay the groundwork for the next generation to get blessings. It’s not something you see in the moment.”
For Hill, the real home runs come in making family a priority.
“There’s nothing more important in the eternities than family,” Karen said. “It’s the most basic unit of the gospel, so why should Brian worry about the other superficial things? You see him with his grandsons and it’s like he’s a little boy all over again.”
Maybe it is a good thing the baseball field is in use so many days of the year. It gives Hill the opportunity to work hard on the field and in the family, a balance which is JSTOSM.