Shackled by the weight of the leg braces, Rickey Hill grew up hitting rocks with sticks and dreamed of one day hearing his racquet bounce off a ball flying across the field.
They told him that this dream could not come true. The odds against him and the nearly countless reconnaissance operations he had undergone were too high.
“She didn’t have a disc in her spine,” Hill told CBN’s Faithwire. “People didn’t know I was born without a disc. My grandmother and great-grandmother are in wheelchairs; I’ve never seen them any other way, and I went in the same direction.”
Hill, the son of a Baptist minister, grew up believing that God’s plan and prognosis were at odds.
Hill, whose life story is the subject of the new film The Hill, starring Dennis Quaid and Colin Ford, was a stubborn boy who was not intimidated by the physical limitations that plagued him. So, at the age of just eight, he ditched the cumbersome supports that allowed him to straighten his legs at birth, twisted them around, and picked up a baseball bat.
“One day, when I was eight, my braces broke,” he says. “I never put them on again.”
The bold and ruthless courage it took Hill to break free of the physical limitations that defined his future “came straight from God himself,” the unlikely athlete mused.
And her tenacious spirit has paid off.
Thanks to his impressive batting skills and great determination, Hill got a tryout at the age of 19 with the Montreal Expos, a major league baseball franchise. Despite being signed and eventually released from the team, Hill played four seasons in minor league baseball.
The man who discovered Hill, baseball scout Red Murff, described the young player as “the best straight hitter I’ve ever seen,” according to USA Today. Hill only retired from the sport when his health condition prevented him from continuing.
But that didn’t matter: Hill had already achieved his dream and his father’s, albeit in unconventional ways.
“I knew that one day I would make it somehow,” says Hill. “The pain didn’t matter. I endured the pain because it was so painful, but I stormed through the pain and just carried it inside. My father had it; I had him.”
Hill’s father, played by Quaid in the film, was wary of the idea of a baseball career because he feared for his son’s health. Instead, he hoped Hill would achieve his dream: a life dedicated to service.
With tears in his eyes, Hill, played by Ford in the film, contemplated making both dreams come true in his life.
“I was probably the only baseball player who never sweared,” he laughs. “I got on the buses and started preaching to the guys on the bus; the guys were listening, singing gospel songs, and leading gospel songs while we were driving. That continued throughout my baseball career.”
Even at times when he didn’t understand God’s plan, like when he was paralyzed in the field, Hill said he never gave up hope or faith in God’s sovereignty.
“I didn’t understand that,” he said. “But I never gave up hope and faith and underwent major surgeries that gave me my legs back. I have nine screws in my spine, six cages, and a 14-inch rod holding me together. And today I’m so thankful”.
His supernatural success continues to this day. In mid-August, Hill threw the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers.
Seeing his life’s journey filmed is another affirmation of God’s faithfulness.
In the late 1970s, Hill’s brother chronicled the baseball player’s harrowing story in a small book intended solely for the family. Around that time, someone from his church got it and sent it to Hollywood, where a studio expressed interest in turning the book into a movie. But it wasn’t the right time.
At the same time, Hill’s parents became seriously ill, and his father passed away.
All these years later, the story was revisited—aand written by the same screenwriter who was behind the iconic sports movies Hoosiers and Rudy.
“Even that movie brought me closer to God,” Hill said through tears. “What I’ve been through brings me closer to Jesus Christ because I know this story was planned before my mother.”