Mike Hinckley has been humbled.
Four years ago, the former Moore baseball standout was in the majors, pitching for the Washington Nationals on perfectly manicured mounds.
Tuesday, he spent his afternoon raking the mound and laying down chalk lines at Capitol Hill, preparing for the Redskins' second set of home games of the year.
Two years ago, Hinckley was bouncing between Triple-A and Double-A in the Toronto Blue Jays' system, hoping to earn another shot at big league glory.
Before Tuesday's game against Guthrie, the 30-year-old Hinckley had to track down umpires to make sure they were on their way and convince his starting pitcher that he was in fact going to pitch the first game of a doubleheader instead of the second.
“I did have a big head when I played a lot of the times but God humbled me,” Hinckley said. “I allowed myself to be top dog and got caught up in that.”
Hinckley now spends his mornings milking cows and shoveling manure at the Braum's Family Farm in Tuttle. He spends his afternoons on the south side of Oklahoma City as Capitol Hill's first-year baseball coach.
It's not exactly a posh retirement from his playing days, but Hinckley couldn't be happier.
The Redskins haven't won many games — most came in the All-City Tournament where Capitol Hill finished second — but Hinckley sees improvement in his 13-player squad.
“You watch the fruits of your labor,” Hinckley said. “Just watching them, they've really learned how to do some fundamental things that have really helped us be in some ballgames. The boys have fought and they've tried hard and that's really rewarding.”
The players have noticed the difference as well.
“I knew he was going to teach us a bunch of stuff that we didn't know,” junior Ulises Villalobos said. “We're getting better. We're actually playing these country schools and for the first couple of innings, we've got them 0-0 or we're down 3-0 and we're actually competing with them. We're actually making them sweat.”
Hinckley's dad, David, was a longtime coach at Moore and coached Mike there.
But the younger Hinckley didn't give much thought to coaching until recently.
“I remember my dad coming home and unraveling the tape off his stirrups and throwing them at me when I was a kid,” Mike said. “I loved being around him at the field and dragging the field with him. I never thought to myself that I do that. I always thought I'd play all the time.”
But in the latter years of his playing career, Hinckley started offering pitching and hitting lessons and contemplating what it would be like to follow his father's footsteps.
Last summer, about a year after he'd been “fired” from professional baseball, he mentioned to his wife Leanna that he'd like to coach on some level.
A few weeks later, Capitol Hill principal Ale Souza approached Hinckley after a service at Faith Crossing Baptist Church and asked him if he'd be interested in the spot.
“We prayed about it, talked about it as a family and in August, once school started, I was ready to get out here and get started,” Hinckley said. “When I got fired from baseball June 11, 2011, I didn't know what the next move was. I knew I wanted to go back to school and do certain things with my life but I wasn't sure what God had in store for me.”
The players weren't sure what to think when they found out a player who pitched 28 games in the majors over 2008 and 2009 with a 1.93 ERA was going to be their coach.
“I was in shock,” sophomore Juan Varela said of finding out their coach played in the majors. “I can't believe we had someone as our coach that had done that. Why is he at Capitol Hill?”
Hinckley wants it to be much more than a cameo, though.
“As long as they let me stay around here and no one fires me, I'd like to stay around Capitol Hill for quite some time,” he said. “I've grown so close to these guys, coming out to practice and getting a chance to hang out with them outside of the field. … I want to be out here watching them grow up.”