Since we started writing the blog, I have started to once again look at the baseball cards I collected when I was little. So many Padres names and so many happy memories flood back into my mind when I look at my old cards and it brings me a sense of joy. I also begin to wonder how some of the people whose cards I have are doing? Are they ok and how has life treated them? One card always stood out amongst all of my cards and that was my 1974 Dave Hilton Washington NL Card. My grandparents bought me over a thousand cards the first year I collected and the only Washington Padres I got in packs were Dave Freisleben‘s rookie card and Dave Hilton. Dave Hilton’s card was always next to the 1974 Padres card of him and I always loved looking at both.
On July 8th of this year, I found a link to his baseball school and decided to write him and ask for an interview via e-mail and sent him a link to our page. Dave wrote back and said that our stories and interviews brought back (great memories) for him and that he would do an interview by phone or e-mail over the weekend when he had time. Dave wrote that he might be coming to San Diego and if he did, he would talk to us in person. Well, God put it together, because Dave wrote back and said he was coming out! We exchanged numbers, setup the time and drove down to the hotel he and his wife Patty were staying it. We met by the pool at his hotel and talked for 30 minutes before our interview getting to know each other. Dave signed my cards and we presented Dave with his 1979 Japanese baseball card, which he didn’t have.
We hope you enjoy our interview with Dave and Patty Hilton. 2 great people and 2 new friends that we feel blessed to know.
The Padres in 1970 had finished their second season with record of 63-99, the worst in baseball. This achievement earned the Padres the #1 draft pick for the 1971 draft. Peter Bavasi, the teams Farm Director along with Chief Scout Bob Fontaine liked what they saw in a young man from Texas named Dave Hilton and selected him with their pick. Traveling with pitchers Larry Hardy and Dave Freisleben, Dave drove to his first Major League Spring Training and played against major league talent before the Padres assigned Dave to A+ Lodi in the Cal League where he hit .246 with 12 homers and 86 runs scored.
In 1972, Dave was promoted to AA Alexandria of the Texas League where he became an All-Star 3B for the league as well as Player of the Year hitting .315 with 16 home runs and was rewarded with a September call up by the Padres. On September 10th, Dave made his first career start for the Padres and got his first hit in the 5th inning off Braves pitcher Ron Reed. For the 1973 season, the Padres decided to make Dave their Opening Day starter at 3B. On April 29th in Wrigley Field, Dave hit his first career home run off future Hall Of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.
Dave struggled at the plate and was sent down to AAA Hawaii and after 43 games, went sent down to AA Alexandria to learn to play 2B to make room for the Padres #1 draft choice in the previous season, Dave Roberts, who was having a career year at 3B. Dave worked hard and was called back up in September and moved right into the 2B position and showed the Padres he had made the adjustment to his new position. 1974 started off with Dave once again moving back to 3B due to an injury to Dave Roberts. Once again, Dave struggled at the plate and was sent down to AAA Hawaii where he hit .328 and made the Pacific Coast League All-Star Team.
1975, saw Dave make it out of Spring Training, but as a backup at 2B Tito Fuentes and 3B Mike Ivie. Dave played his last major league games with the Padres on April 27th 1975 against the team he got his first hit off; the Atlanta Braves. Dave was sent to AAA shortly after, and helped Hawaii win the Pacific Coach League Championship in 1975 and again in 1976. He was sold to the expansion Blue Jays on October 26th, 1976 and played for their AAA Toledo team becoming a veteran leader on the club and won the AAA Silver Glove Award.
After the 1977 season, the White Sox selected Dave in the minor league free agent draft, but instead of playing with them, he was offered an opportunity to play in Japan with the Yakult Swallows. He won a Championship there, was traded to Hanshin in 1980 and was released at mid-season. He signed with the Pirates and played 1980 and 1981 with AAA Portland, where he won a Gold Glove for his play at 3B. He played one last season in Mexico for the Mexico City Reds before retiring from the game.
Dave has since coached in the minors for the Braves, A’s, Phillies and Giants, was the Brewers 1B coach in 1987 and 1988. He is currently running a baseball camp in Scottsdale, AZ called Arizona School of Baseball
We would like to acknowledge that the information about Dave’s career was gleaned from a wonderful SABR story about his entire career by Chuck Johnson