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Midvale Journal

New Hillcrest High baseball coach implementing a culture with purpose

Mar 01, 2024 12:52PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High’s baseball team will host Provo High in the season opener on March 5. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

When the Huskies step out onto the baseball field, there’s intention. When they’re in the weight room, there’s effort. When they’re in the doing drills, there’s dedication.

That’s the goal of first-year baseball coach Trevor Thornton.

“The biggest thing we are implementing this year is building a strong culture in everything that we do, whether that is conditioning or getting better hitting in the cages,” he said. “We don’t want to just go through the motions. We want to make sure that everything that we do has a purpose and put forth 100% effort.”

By doing so, Thornton foresees the team improving from its 1-18 season last year. 

“We don’t have the numbers of players other schools do, so we got to create a culture where kids want to come play. A lot of that is showing a good product on the field. My motto is ‘respect all and fear none.’ We’re going to go play any team with respect and we aren’t going to fear them even if statistically, they may appear better. We’re just going to put that 100% effort into it,” he said.

It’s what Thornton preached in open gyms prior to the Feb. 26 tryouts. It’s what he’ll advocate leading into their season opener, a March 5 home game against Provo High.

Prior to tryouts, Thornton noted in fall and winter open gyms he had some “really good seniors who have been putting a ton of work in offseason and are trying to make it their best year this year. We have a couple sophomores that will probably play varsity and then a freshman. We have a good senior catcher and so we’re trying to find pitchers on the JV level who could step up to play that position if we need them to.”

However, he knows there may be some multisport athletes he hasn’t seen play or even some who haven’t played for years who could return to the sport.

“I was a multisport athlete sport myself,” said the former Box Elder High School baseball and football player who also played hoops for two years. “I love we have the culture where this is a place I can play baseball and still play football, basketball or wrestle. It helps kids be better in every facet of the game and it gives them a break from the grind of baseball. When they come back, they’re refreshed and ready to go.”

This year, Thornton, along with two other coaches, will oversee varsity and JV squads.

“The goal is within the next couple years, we’ll get the numbers that we can fill three teams,” he said, adding that he wants to hold a summer camp for third  to eighth graders and have his players work with them.

Right now, Thornton is concentrating on the games ahead. The 4A state tournament starts May 3 and 4 at home sites.

“Juan Diego, Cottonwood, they’re going to be tough. It’s a pretty tough region all around. We got our work cut out for us, but we’re excited for the challenge,” he said. “I’ve been doing check-ins, making sure how the players are doing as a person. That’s one thing I wish I had in a school; it helps the kids see that you’re not just this guy who’s just in charge of a baseball team; you’re actually someone that they trust. I’ll also check with them academically because we’re student-athletes, we’re not athlete-students. At almost every open gym, I’ve been asking, ‘Hey, how are you doing? How’s school going?’ I hope they know we have an interest in their education and we’re not here just to focus on baseball.”

The physical education teacher at Roots Charter High School in West Valley grew up on the mound.

“I always loved pitching because as a pitcher I always had the ball in my hand and there’s a lot of action going on. I had a strong connection to the game. That just grew more and more,” he said. 

But it was after watching New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter that his passion deepened.

“I was not a Yankees fan. My brother was a big Yankees fan; I was an Angels fan. But when I saw Derek Jeter play the A’s running across the field right by home plate and gets the cut-off and then, he throws it to get the guy out, I was like ‘Wow.’ After that, my number was two; I wanted to replicate what he did,” said Thornton, who still has the poster of Jeter that he had as a boy that he got at his elementary school bookfair.

He then played other positions, but from sixth grade through high school, “I was playing third base and shortstop and just trying to mimic a lot about what he did.”

The love for baseball never left Thornton, even throughout serving a church mission or studying behavioral science at Utah Valley University.

“I knew I wanted to be involved in sports; it was a passion of mine since I was a little kid clipping out the box scores from newspapers. I knew I needed to find a career that I was passionate about so, I decided to coach; I wanted to be involved helping kids and I love sports,” he said.

He returned to his high school and helped coach football and baseball before moving on to West Ridge Academy in West Jordan, where he coached baseball, boys basketball and girls basketball. During COVID-19, he took a break from coaching until he saw Hillcrest High’s opening posted.

“I’ve always had a passion for baseball; there’s lessons that translate to life,” Thornton said. “If you strike out, what are you going to do? Everybody’s going to strike, but it’s what do we do when we strike out that counts. Do we give up and not play or do we go up to bat again?” λ