Aaron Hill, starting at second base for the American League Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in the first All-Star appearance of his career, has provided one of baseball's best comeback stories of the season.
"I think it will be settling in about when the lights come on tomorrow," Hill said. "I'm just taking this all in. This is pretty amazing right now. I'm pretty pumped up to be here and I'm just going to soak it in."
On May 29 of last year, Hill was struck on the side of the head during a collision with former Jays shortstop David Eckstein. The second baseman missed the rest of the season, creating questions about his future in the game. Hill fought dizzy spells, persistent headaches and sleepless nights for months and the Jays weren't sure what his status would be for 2009.
"It was just a heavy head," Hill said. "Whenever we tried going out and doing some exercises, it was constant dizziness. It was annoying, but there was nothing we could do."
Needless to say, Hill has shown he is more than recovered.
Through 89 games as the No. 2 hitter and catalyst in the Blue Jays' lineup, Hill has hit .292 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs. Entering the break, Hill's 190 total bases ranked second in the game only to Albert Pujols of the Cardinals. Among Major League second basemen, Hill ranks first in hits (114), is tied for the lead in homers and ranks second in RBIs.
"Sometimes people don't come back from concussions," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "That certainly was a worry on our part -- his, too. He's bounced back and had a good enough first half to make the All-Star team. I'm really happy and proud of him."
On June 28, Hill launched a pair of homers to break the club's single-season record for home runs in one season by a second baseman. The previous mark of 17 homers was set by Blue Jays great Roberto Alomar in 1993 and later matched by Hill in 2007. Hill declined an invitation to take part in the Home Run Derby on Monday, but the Jays expect his power showing to continue in the second half.
"I know the home run power is a little bit different," Gaston said. "It's just the fact that he's getting his hands going a little bit more this year and he's creating a little bit more power. I'm not surprised at all with him. I wouldn't be surprised if he did this for the rest of his career."
Hill, however, would be downright amazed.
"I'm going to keep telling myself I'm a doubles guy," Hill said. "The minute I think I can hit home runs, I'm going to see a lot of numbers slide."
It is a worry, on a different note, that Hill will always have. It would be difficult for Hill to take his Major League life -- home runs or not -- for granted, considering how close he came to losing it.
"Don't forget how easily something can be taken away," Hill said. "I keep saying that over and over, but it's the truth. I'm just grateful to be back in a uniform and be successful."