* * *
Kayleigh didn't want to go. Not really.
Her youngest sister, Torrie Hill, seemed oh-so-ready to take the wild romp around TD Ameritrade Park. I'll go first, the Millard West senior-to-be said. Follow me.
Kayleigh's other younger sister, Emily Hill, steeled her nerves and agreed. We're really doing this, Emily, an incoming University of Nebraska-Lincoln freshman, thought as she looked around at 27,127 fans crammed into the ballpark to watch the College World Series' championship game. Let's do this.
And so the trio that soon would achieve Internet infamy — three sisters soon to be known as Team Hill — took off their shoes and stood up during an eighth inning pitching change.
Torrie hopped the fence first. Then Emily.
“Shoot,” 20-year-old Kayleigh Hill thought. “I actually have to do this.”
She jumped the fence, too.
Together they landed on the emerald turf of left field. Together they sprinted wild and free as the crowd roared.
Together, for a few fleeting moments, they made the sound you make when you are young and fueled by adrenaline and doing something you most certainly should not do.
And it would've been exactly like every other time that three young Omahans ran onto a baseball field during a nationally televised game except for one thing: As she ran, Kayleigh Hill shot a video of herself with her smartphone.
And then, just before TD Ameritrade security threw her into handcuffs — just before she entered the not-so-fun phase of the ballpark-running experience — she posted it to Twitter.
The rest, Team Hill says, is a strange chapter in their shared history.
“It wasn't premeditated,” Kayleigh says as she sits with her sisters outside a west Omaha coffee shop. “I dunno, I just did it because I thought it would be funny. I had no idea ...”
Even as Kayleigh and her sisters sat in cuffs in the ballpark security office, the world was tweeting and retweeting the video. A thousand times in 20 minutes. Thousands more in the first hour.
Even as Kayleigh and Emily rode to jail in the back of a police car — Torrie got out of that because she's a juvenile — the night creatures who run the sports blogosphere were crafting the video and screen captures from it into stories that eventually appeared on Fox Sports. The New York Daily News. “Dateline NBC.” Yes, “Dateline NBC.”
They didn't know any of this, not as they put on their prison-issue orange jumpsuit pants and sat sullenly on the hard plastic seats inside the Douglas County Correctional Center.
Their father, Pat, arrived after midnight with bail money and, as you might imagine, he was slightly unhappy.
Team Hill's mother, Denise, met Torrie outside the ballpark. She wasn't thrilled, either.
On second thought, maybe jail is preferable to an irate mother.
“Thanks a lot for leaving me with Mom, guys,” Torrie later joked to her sisters.
The next day, and the day after, and the day after that, Team Hill did something slightly less notorious than sprinting wild and free across the outfield at the College World Series.
They got up early. They put on work gloves. They pulled weeds.
“I'm guessing the chores will be ongoing,” says older sister Alex, who is 26 and happens to be an honest-to-goodness marine biologist on the East Coast.
This summer she's also serving as the self-appointed family diplomat, shuttling between her parents and younger sisters and explaining the teens to the adults and vice versa.
In their defense — and they admit it's a weak one — the Hill sisters say the whole run-onto-the-field thing started as a joke. No, they hadn't been drinking, they say.
In the third inning they sat quite responsibly in their seats in the ninth row and talked about how crazy it would be to run onto the field.
By the fifth inning they were tweeting about it and getting dozens of responses, and the idea turned from a way to amuse themselves during UCLA's blowout win over Mississippi State into something else.
It turned into a real thing.
Somebody said, “What if we actually did it?” Kayleigh remembers.
They dared each other, and double-dared and talked about the best way to field-crash. They ignored their little brother Brendan, a play-by-the-rules type of 13-year-old. Don't do it, guys, he implored. You are going to be in trouble.
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
Then, a sign: The security guard standing at the bottom of their section — the security guard meant to protect the field from just this sort of thing — simply disappeared. The coast was clear.
“Now we have to do it,” Emily said.
They took off their shoes. They moved down from the ninth row to three empty seats in the first row. And then they hopped over a 5-foot-fence, and …
“I don't even remember it,” Torrie says.
“I honestly can't really even remember either,” Emily says.
“It felt like a dream,” Kayleigh says.
Here's what happened. Torrie went left, toward the left field wall. Emily sprinted straight into center. Kayleigh juked a security guard and headed toward right field.
As they ran, Torrie and Kayleigh held their phones aloft, taping the action.
It felt like forever. It was more like 15 seconds. And then security guards closed in and enveloped each of the sisters in giant bear hugs.
“Actually, I saw a good-looking man and just kind of stopped running,” Emily says. “He took my wrist, and I stopped.”
“You got tired,” Torrie says.
In mid-July, the two adult members of Team Hill went to court, pleaded guilty to trespassing and paid $500 fines.
Then they took a group photo outside the courthouse and posted it on Twitter. Of course they did.
In addition to the fine, the sisters are banned from TD Ameritrade, the CenturyLink Center and the Civic Auditorium for one year from the night they stormed the field.
I do a bit of quick addition and realize that if the CWS schedule works out just right, that might mean that Team Hill can return for the first time during the 2014 CWS championship series.
Team Hill agrees: That would be pretty sweet.
Last question, I tell the Hill sisters after we finish our coffees. If you had to do it over again, would you?
They look at each other. For the first time, they seem shy.
Finally, Emily speaks.
“I mean, I wouldn't recommend going and doing it,” she says, still looking at her sisters. “But the truth? I thought it was fun. Because it was fun.”