For Drew Miller, an All-KCAC designated hitter for Friends last season as a sophomore, Tuesday’s 9-1 loss by Valley Center to the San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Blues brought another chapter in the 27-year-old’s remarkable baseball saga to an end. Valley Center was eliminated from the NBC World Series.
“I like to keep things in perspective,” said Miller, who hit .361 with 12 doubles for the Falcons. “It’s something I was missing when I was younger. The opportunity to play baseball.”
After graduating from West High in 2004, Miller played one season at Dodge City Community College before quitting the team because he was “young, dumb, only cared about myself and thought I knew everything,” then left an instructional league in Florida for many of the same reasons.
Miller joined the military in 2009 and after several weeks of “lots of push-ups,” he settled in and, right before deployment to the Middle East in 2010, a live grenade drill at Fort Polk in Louisiana changed his life.
“I was the cadre, or leader in this drill where we threw live grenades, which I was really good at because I’d played baseball my whole life ... I’d just launch those things, and since I’m 6-foot-3, it was no problem to get them up over anything,” Miller said. “So we’re doing a two-man drill in this pit where we tossed the grenade over an eight-foot wall, and behind us was a four-foot wall and another pit, for protection.
“So the guy who is in there with me was much shorter, and he tried to throw a grenade over the wall and it didn’t make it over ... it hit the top of the wall, bounced back up in the air and was coming back into the pit with us. I went to grab it so I could throw it again, but he jumped back into me, so I grabbed him and rolled over the smaller wall. The grenade went off and the force came through the wall ... but I didn’t think it hurt us because we had front and back chest plates on.”
That night, Miller passed out while taking his shoes off. The force of the grenade had damaged his heart to the point where he needed to have a pacemaker put in and received a medical discharge from the military.
Miller moved back to Wichita, where he was discovered by Friends coach Adam Neisius playing in an adult league. Miller wants to become a teacher and coach, hopefully at West, after he graduates. His heart rate caps out at around 120 beats per minute, so he has to know when to taper off during workouts.
“I’m trying to make the most out of this opportunity, to get my education,” Miller said. “One thing I try to stress to my teammates, who are a lot younger, obviously, is that it can’t always be about you. Think about the team, think about other people. You’ll get much more out of life.”
The Wellington Heat gutted out a 7-5 win over the Nevada Griffons on Tuesday in an elimination game on the backs of two-RBI performances from Nick Billinger and Kirk Rocha.
After Wellington starter Vince Lujan struggled early — he lasted 3 2/3 innings while giving up seven hits and three earned runs — his replacement, Brady Bowen, fared much better. Bowen gave up no hits and no runs over 4 1/3 innings. Lujan still got the win.
Wellington 7, Nevada (Mo.) 5, Nevada eliminated
San Luis Obispo (Calif.) 9, Valley Center 1, Valley Center eliminated
Hutchinson vs. Seattle
Santa Barbara (Calif.) vs. Clarinda (Iowa)
Clarinda 5, Valley Center 0
|Crumptn 3b||4||0||0||0||Francia lf||4||1||1||0|
|Baez 2b||4||0||3||0||Poindxtr cf||3||1||0||0|
|Sigg cf||3||0||0||0||Trahan ss||4||1||2||0|
|Vogel rf||3||0||0||0||Britt 1b||4||0||1||1|
|Seeger dh||3||0||0||0||Cormier rf||3||2||1||1|
|Koehler ph||1||0||0||0||Long 3b||4||0||3||3|
|Miller 1b||3||0||0||0||Paxton dh||3||0||0||0|
|Parker pr||0||0||0||0||Thurman c||3||0||0||0|
|Bell c||2||0||0||0||Raley 2b||1||0||0||0|
E— Sorenseon, Trahan, Thurman. DP— Valley Center 2, Clarinda 1. LOB— Valley Center 7, Clarinda 5. 2B— Long. SB — Parker, Temple, Francia, Thurman. CS — Long.
Umpires—Home, Scott Freund; first, Charlie Clemons; third, Conan Strobel.
Wellington 7, Nevada 5
|Nevada||011||100||002||—||5 10 1|
|Wellington||310||110||01x||—||7 9 2|
W — Bowen (1-0). L — Danielak (0-1).
San Luis Obispo 9, Valley Center 1
|Valley Center||010||000||00||—||1 7 1|
|San Luis Obispo||020||001||42||—||9 6 1|
W — Lee (1-0). L — Mendoza (0-1).