DETROIT – Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the real-life, off-field crises that baseball players go through play themselves out without anyone ever hearing a single word about it.
The last thing Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard wants now is privacy when it comes to solving the mysterious disappearance of his childhood friend Matt Hill in the Washington, D.C. area on Tuesday.
The set-up man reached out to the media before last night’s postponement to help bring attention to Hill, 26, who was last seen dropping off a student in the Chinatown neighborhood of downtown Washington. A half-hour later, his ATM card was traced to a gas station, but since then both Hill and his car have gone missing. A Facebook page – www.facebook.com/findmatthill – has been set up with contact information for anyone with a clue about what happened.
Hill is far from a random acquaintance to Bard. He served as one of the right-hander’s wedding groomsmen and the two kept in frequent contact. The day before he went missing, Hill, an Indians fan, sent Bard a text ‘giving me a hard time’ about the Red Sox -Indians series.
On Thursday, 48 hours after Hill had last been heard from, Bard learned his friend was missing.
Many of Bard’s friends have gone to the nation’s capital to canvass the city looking for Hill. Bard has not joined the search party but he has been unable to keep Hill out of his thoughts.
‘It’s not easy,’ said Bard. ‘I haven’t considered leaving or anything, but at the same time, I don’t think I go two minutes without thinking about it. I’ve done as much as I can to help, including trying to get you guys involved a little bit. They’re trying to keep some things close to the chest as far as the investigation goes, but I don’t think you can spread his name and his story and his car information out (enough). We need to get that out as much as possible.’
To Bard, Hill’s disappearance is inexplicable.
‘Extremely out of character,’ said Bard. ‘He’s one of the most positive, outgoing, happy people I’ve ever met. I’m not just saying that, I think anyone who’s met him would say that. Loves his job, loves the people he works with, not married, nothing to tie him down, nothing to run from. That’s why this all seems so strange. He’s a clean-cut guy, one of my best friends growing up, never done a drug in his life, so we’re 99 percent sure that something external was involved.’
Hill is the director of campus outreach at George Washington University.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was aware Bard had summoned the media to spread the word. He expressed concern for his player’s well-being, as well as reinforcing the idea that during the baseball season, the game itself is always the overriding concern.
There are, of course, always exceptions.
‘I care about Daniel,’ said Francona. ‘Sometimes real life, as much as we care about the game – and we do, and we’re supposed to – but there’s real life there, too. Just do the best you can. It’s weird. You never want to apologize for caring about the game because it’s important to us. It’s supposed to be. At the same time, this is something entirely different. We do the best we can.’