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“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Any child growing up today playing baseball in the backyard with big league dreams probably wouldn’t imagine having the career of Tim Dillard.
The first person to admit that would be Tim Dillard.
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“Anybody that plays any kind of baseball has a journey, has a unique story,” Dillard said. “It never goes the way you think—unless you’re Mike Trout. I feel like Mike Trout is doing what he thought he would do.”
While Dillard’s journey hasn’t led him to a place where he could lay claim to being one of the greatest players of his generation, his nearly 20 years in professional baseball have set him up to have an excellent claim to being the greatest Minor League Baseball clubhouse guy of his generation.
He entered pro ball as a 34th round pick, signed as a draft and follow by the Brewers in 2002. Primarily a catcher as an amateur, the Brewers focused the tall Mississippi native on pitching. The move to the mound paid early dividends with standout seasons as a starter at High-A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville.
Upon reaching Triple-A Nashville, Dillard began to hone skills that would eventually be the trademarks of the latter half of his career—flexibility and a team-first attitude. His first two stints in Milwaukee were as a reliever, but during his time in Nashville, Dillard was called up on to start and relieve. Whatever the organization requested, Dillard was ready.
“I’ll do whatever, I’m a Swiss Army Knife, man,” Dillard said. “See a need, fill a need.”
The Swiss Army Knife mentality went beyond just starting or relieving, as Dillard even converted to a sidearm delivery at the Brewers’ behest during Spring Training 2010. Whatever the task or request, for the sake of the team and to stay in the big leagues, Dillard answered the call.
However, since 2012, the Brewers (or the Rangers, the organization that Dillard spent the 2019 season with) haven’t needed his services at the MLB level. Despite not seemingly being in the organization’s big league plans, Dillard has provided an invaluable service year after year to his employer.
“Listen, I stay healthy. I’m gonna pitch whenever you want me to pitch,” said Dillard. “I’m not gonna be one of these six-year free agent guys, an older guy that’s only out for himself. I know these guys, these young guys—I wanna help them.”
Most of all, it’s what he brings in the clubhouse to the teammates he’s had at Triple-A Nashville and Colorado Springs over most of the past decade. Professional baseball is a difficult job—it’s something Dillard knows as well as anyone in the game. When you’ve spent almost two decades in the grind of professional baseball and can still find happiness every day in the clubhouse, it makes you the perfect messenger to spread that same enjoyment to your teammates.
He’s used filming fun videos and keeping a cheerful upbeat personality to provide a distraction to teammates from the stresses of the game. A quick YouTube search of “Tim Dillard” provides a bountiful harvest of hysterical video content that Dillard has created in various clubhouses, and it isn’t a stretch to imagine how his presence can allow a ballclub to relax.
Dillard might not have Mike Trout’s WAR, or even the years of big league service time he’d planned on when envisioning his dream career, but late into his 30s he’s still finding the joy of the clubhouse, and passing that onto every player he gets the chance.
On the latest episode of From Phenom to the Farm, Tim Dillard discusses his long journey in professional baseball. He’ll talk about his experience as junior college as a draft-and-follow guy, making any adjustment he can to stick in the big leagues, the secret to being a great clubhouse guy, and playing some of the only professional baseball in front of fans during the summer of 2020.