Dave Hilton was one of the most liked, well-respected coaches who never won a high school varsity baseball game.

The first overall pick of the 1971 amateur baseball draft by the San Diego Padres, made his impact more behind the scenes in youth baseball, with his lasting lessons, his passion and meticulous care to make each player the best he could be, and helping high school coaches mold their teams.

On Sunday, Hilton, who lived in Scottsdale, died at 67.

“The community has lost a very passionate and loving man who brought all of those characteristics to every lesson and team he ever coaches,” said Phoenix Horizon baseball coach Eric Kibler, who worked baseball camps for more than 30 years with Hilton.

Hilton founded the Arizona School of Baseball in Scottsdale, teaching many of the state’s future stars.

“He has helped our program for many years,” Kibler said. “He has the best demeanor of any coach or teacher I have ever known. He has coached many club teams, as well as given thousands of lessons to kids in the Valley.

“He is one of the best men I have been fortunate to know.”

Hilton, a third baseman and second baseman, was taken No. 1 in the 1971 amateur baseball draft by the San Diego Padres. He made his major league debut a year later. He played four seasons in the majors and three in Japan during a 12-year pro career.

He settled in Scottsdale after his baseball career ended.

Aaron Borenstein, a New York attorney, who played baseball at Horizon and Scottsdale Saguaro and graduated in 2008, was first given a lesson at age 11 from Hilton.

“Of course at the time it was hard to grasp the profound impact he would have on me as a ballplayer, but it was pretty evident from the start that Dave was going to do whatever it took to make you better,” Borenstein said.

“Dave spent countless hours on the field with young players working on everything from how you prepared for the pitch, to your footwork after each throw. Dave built players from the ground up. In a world where details are often overlooked for a quick fix, Dave focused on every aspect of the game. As an 11-year-old kid, I just wanted fungos. I didn’t want to do drills. I didn’t yet understand. It was only when I reached college that I realized that Dave helped me and hundreds of other 11-year-old kids appreciate that those drills, although not glamorous or fun at times, help you build the foundation for your mechanics. Those drills allow you to make the plays you need to make to be a baseball player.

“He may not have been the loudest coach on the field, or the one you spoke to every day, but he made a lasting impression on you. Quick with a handshake and a smile, he was always there.”

Kibler said Arizona youth baseball will miss Hilton.

“We at Horizon will always feel his presence at our practices and games,” Kibler said. “God bless him.”

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