All-Star Jared Miller Appreciates Life, Hillsboro Hops
When Jared Miller comes to the mound, the first thing a batter will notice is his size. At 6’7”, he stands tall in more ways than just his pitching. The second thing a batter notices are Miller’s eyes, constantly in full concentration, focusing on the man holding the bat. During a game, very few are more committed to winning the game than Miller.
In the clubhouse, Miller will share one of the biggest smiles on the team and a laugh that joins in easily to the festivities after a game. After a win, it is easy to see his teammates joining in the boisterous atmosphere. So which is the true Jared Miller? Is he somewhere in between or is he a man of both extremes?
I got a chance to sit down with Jared for a few minutes after a game before the team would leave on a road trip prior to the All-Star Game.
After talking with Jared, it is easy to pick up on the fact that he is on a mission. He is dedicated to “make the most of my opportunity.” Jared realizes that “consistency is the biggest’s key. Consistency is what gets you to the next level. By working on it every day.”
He is the true definition of a winner. Jared Miller is leading the league in wins (7) and is close to, if not at the top in all other pitching categories of the Northwest League. He was selected to start the All-Star Game with his fellow Northwest League all-stars against the all-stars of the Pioneer League, Tuesday in Spokane, Washington.
The Arizona Diamondbacks saw something to give him a chance last year. Every year, a thousand men can be drafted, each one showing promise but only a small percentage will make it to their dream. Arizona drafted Jared Miller out of Vanderbilt University in the 11th round in 2014, as the All-Star starter opted to bypass his senior year. The Commodores had just won their college’s first ever World Series. Jared joined the Hops on 7/18 in 2014 for his pro debut.
During the 2014 season, Jared Miller started five games, earning a 1-1 record. He walked 21 batters and struck out the same number – 21. He would shine in the playoffs. Jared came in relief during the first game against the Vancouver Canadians, who were battling the Hops for the league championship. After two innings and behind 5-0, Jared stepped up to the mound and shut down the Canadians for four innings in the middle of the game. The Hops won the game 7-5 and Miller got the win.
The Hops went on to win the 2014 NW League championship. Jared Miller went from being a part of the College World Series champions in June to being a part of the NW League champions in September.
The left-hander started his baseball journey growing up in Indiana with his parents and two brothers. He figures he “started being aware of baseball around 3 or 5” years of age. He knew for sure that he “wanted to be a pitcher around ten or so.” His “parents were not overbearing. They didn’t force me into the game.” It was that relaxed atmosphere of a fun childhood that taught Jared “the love of the game”.
With that “love for the game,” Jared has “always been a Cardinals fan.” His smile beamed as he talked of his Cardinals. “I followed McGwire battling Sosa” for the home run crown. “Tony LaRussa was such an incredible manager.” Jared’s also a “big (Ken) Griffey, Jr fan.”
One of Miller’s greatest life moments was that he got to meet former pitching guru Dave Duncan last week which he called a “big thrill.” Duncan is a former big-leaguer who played from 1964-1976. After his playing days, Duncan became a pitching coach for, among others, Jared’s beloved Cardinals. From 1986-2011, Duncan worked with former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa with three different teams and helped four different pitchers claim a Cy Young Award. One of those, Doug Drabek (1990), is Miller’s current pitching coach with the Hops. The year before Jared was to sign with the Diamondbacks and come to the Hops, Duncan signed on and became the pitching coordinator for the Diamondback organization. At first, I thought Dave was up visiting because of his coordinator duties but Jared smiled and said, “He was checking up on his son.” His son, Shelley Duncan, is the current manager for the Hillsboro Hops.
Away from the game, Jared likes to pretty much be normal. “I like to hang around with the guys. See a movie.” Jared’s pregame routine is “nothing special.” He likes to “wake up, shower, get some Chipotle, watch a movie, relax.” The idea is to keep things simple.
He also understands that time away from your chosen profession can be hard to find at times. “I would like to do more reading,” Jared admits. His one primary form of relief he finds is the camaraderie and fellowship he has with his teammates. “You meet a lot of interesting guys playing at a pro level. I try to get to know people the best I can.”
Even if it is a routine, it is a chance to step away from the pressure that can be intense. Here, managers, coaches and coordinators can and will drive you hard. Not just because they know you can perform at that level but because they want you to perform at that level. Nothing is more rewarding to a coach, coordinator or manager than seeing one of the young men they helped build into a player that can succeed at a higher level, and the rooting doesn’t stop at the next level. It will follow a player throughout his career.
When it comes to the young fans of the game, Jared’s smile will greet them. When I asked Jared for some advice for a young player wanting to earn a pro career he advised, “Don’t take the game too seriously because it can be a grind.” His advice actually provided more insight to the man himself. His words echoed from his pregame routine: relax; keep things simple. “It’s a tough game. It’s a game of failure. You can fail 7 times out of 10 and still make the Hall of Fame.” His message was clear. “It’s not easy to achieve your dream but don’t give up. One mistake does not lose the game.”
“Play all sports as long as you can,” Jared advises. “I grew up in Indiana where I wanted to play basketball.” Jared still enjoys basketball. He was actually a candidate for Mr. Indiana one year – in baseball.
Jared practices what he preaches. In his advice to the youngsters, you can hear the same advice for himself. Consistency rises above all. Keeping the “love of the game” can also mean keeping it fun.
A player faces the “minor league grind.” It comes from “going up and down the levels.” Jared’s way to face it is “you have to look at it as a cup half full.” Have fun and don’t forget the prize at the end of the dream.
Jared was “not really surprised by anything at this level. It’s another step.” The talent may be different at each level but the mechanics, the responsibilities won’t change. What can get you to the AA level is also what helps you achieve the AAA level: consistency.
What will help Jared reach the next level? “I want to work on my consistency.” It is his mantra. “I have proven I have the stuff,” Jared says this without being cocky. It is in all seriousness a confidence from someone who has accomplished much in a short career and knows he has even more to accomplish. “Now, I want to show the consistency I need to move up to the next level.” The forward path is clear to him. He knows where to go and what will get him there. “Focus on working hard every day.”
At the end of the day, Jared Miller brings it all in perspective. He appreciates his chance to play pro ball. He looks around him and sees how fragile the chance is to be on the pitcher’s mound at this level. “There are guys who get into a car accident or get injured and they lose their opportunity to play this game for a living”. Jared’s somber intensity underlines his point. “Appreciate it every day.”
Jared, if nothing else, is consistent.
By Greg Stoker