A rowdy fan shouted insults at some players in the dugout during the last homestand, and Hillman wouldn't have it. He stepped toward the fan, trying to protect his players. Sure enough, the fan started screaming at him instead.
Nearly two weeks and eight losses later, Hillman wants all of the blame for the Royals' recent stretch of poor play.
The losing streak, which started in Boston last Monday and carried into Tuesday night's game, has included all kinds of lowlights. Hillman's batters were no-hit by Jon Lester. His pitchers have given up three grand slams. His fielders forgot how many outs there were in the eighth inning on Monday against Toronto.
"You guys can blame every loss on me," Hillman said. "I would rather the blame be placed on me than any of the players. It's my job to motivate, to come up with the right lineup, to make sure we're focused and to continue to move in a positive direction."
As trying as the past week has been, Hillman said it's all part of rebuilding a team. Before he came to Kansas City, Hillman did it with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan, taking them from a last-place ballclub to one that made the playoffs in three of his five seasons.
"I understand the frustration," he said. "I've been through it before. Some people maybe don't understand -- and don't have enough appreciation that I've been through these things before in more pressure-packed situations."
Hillman sees the slide as a result of growing pains for his team. He said hitters haven't been patient enough at the plate, and that they get too eager when there are runners in scoring position in crucial situations.
Until those problems get corrected and the wins start coming, the negativity is likely to continue. That's what happens in a city that's seen its fair share of losses during the last 20 years, including a 19-game losing streak in 2005 and 11 eight-game losing streaks since 2002.
Hillman knows that, and he's willing to take plenty more blame until the losing ends.
"It's more noticeable here in this market, not simply because it's the 2008 Royals, but because things like that have been happening," Hillman said. "I wasn't here but I've heard enough, and now I've had enough to feel the frustration of this community. I don't blame them a bit."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.