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Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006

Hillman: Media reports are false

Staff writer

Trey Hillman just wants to worry about baseball.

Media reports coming out of the United States have linked the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters skipper with Hillman's hometown Texas Rangers, who fired manager Buck Showalter this week, and all of a sudden, Hillman was under the gun.

"There have been reports that I was offered the job, that I have taken the job, and they are not true," Hillman said. "One Japanese report said something about a secret under-the-table deal, and there is no substance to it."

The Fighters finished in first place in the Pacific League and will await the winner of this weekend's three-game playoff series between the Seibu Lions and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

Hillman had a press conference Friday to address the rumors and take some heat off the situation, adding that after that day, he would not answer any more questions about his managerial future.

"It wasn't easy today. I must have answered a hundred questions," Hillman said of facing the media. "I know all the rumors, and there is no substance."

Hillman still has not been offered a contract for next season to manage Nippon Ham, which he said he would prefer.

"This would not even be an issue if I was under contract for next year, but it is a business decision on a timetable and I understand," Hillman said. "We've had some talks here, but nothing has been finalized. I have said all along that this is where I want to stay.

"I don't want this to take attention from the team. We're trying to get something done here. Right now I am focused on what I am doing."

That said, Hillman admitted that he would have an open ear for any teams who are interested until his future is set.

"I would be open to listening if someone wanted to talk, but there have been no offers so far," he said.

Hillman said he had been contacted in the last month by different major league teams, adding that he keeps up with his friends in the majors, including New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and people in the Rangers organization.

"What I told people is this, 'You don't work in professional baseball for 20-plus years and not communicate with people,' " he said. "I have talked to my Rangers friends, but no more than I usually do. I still keep in touch with a lot of people."

Hillman managed Triple-A Columbus, a Yankees affiliate, from 1999-2001 before moving onto the Rangers, where he was director of player development in 2002.

Hillman was a candidate for the Rangers managerial vacancy when Showalter was hired reportedly, but he committed to taking the reins with Nippon Ham.

The 43-year-old Hillman said he would consider different baseball jobs, adding that his preference is to remain in the clubhouse as a manager.

"I'm focused on being a manager," he said. "I've been a manager since I was 27 years old, except one year when I was with the Rangers, and that is where I want to be."

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