Miller has mom to thank for baseball trips as a kid
Cheryl took Seattle shortstop, teammates to games all over in her Suburban
SEATTLE -- For 12 years, Cheryl Miller operated her own Kinderdance studio, a fitness center for kids who have yet to reach adolescence. It didn't take her near as long to realize that one of her most unfocused young students was cut out for something other than gymnastics.
"The teacher's student is always the [troublemaker], and all of my little kids knew not to climb on the mats when it wasn't time. You know who did?" she asked.
That was her son, Brad Miller, future starting shortstop for the Seattle Mariners. Taking him to her gym class was one of a few early failed attempts to see what he might like to do for fun while growing up in Orlando, Fla.
"We did expose him to everything," Cheryl recalled. "He wanted to play baseball. We tried gymnastics, we tried Kindermusic. He hid under the table. We tried Cub Scouts with our neighbor, and he came down with a tiger tale hanging by his pants."
Shortly after, Brad politely told all that spending time outdoors wasn't among his favorite extracurricular activities.
"'Ya know, I'm just not a nature guy,'" Cheryl remembers him declaring. "He said that at 4 years old or 5 years old."
As it turned out, he made an exception.
From kindergarten on, it was all baseball, all the time. Not just for Brad, but eventually Cheryl, too. She sold her Kinderdance studio before he started playing for travel teams. Suddenly, her weekends were free from work and her Suburban was packed with Brad and his teammates, as she drove them to baseball tournaments out of state and hours away.
"I was very blessed and fortunate to be that baseball mom that could drive the big suburban -- which is so funny, I still have it -- on the long trips," she said. "They didn't have a big bus to go to where they were playing in [Tennessee], and we'd all pile in."
"She was pretty involved," Brad said. "Always at every game taking me and all the buddies to the field and practice and everything. She was always there, so it's always cool getting to play on Mother's Day."
Cheryl admitted she didn't necessarily think her son was going to be a Major League shortstop. At least, not then. Unlike parents who believe their kids are destined for stardom whether or not they can hit the ball out of the infield, she understood the realities. Brad, now 24, didn't go through a growth spurt "until a few years ago."
He was nowhere close physically to the 6-foot-2, 210-pound man who arrived to 2014 Spring Training chiseled and ready to compete with infielder Nick Franklin for the starting shortstop job.
But she loved every minute she got to spend with him -- even when she was the designated driver and he was in the back playing video games with teammates.
"I was able to go on some of those Friday-Saturday-Sunday trips and drive," Cheryl said. "I would never give that up. It was awesome."
Despite a rough start to his second year in the Major Leagues, Miller will likely be in the lineup Sunday when the Mariners take on the Royals on Mother's Day. And he'll likely be closer to showing last season's form after finishing April with a .174 batting average.
Just ask Cheryl. She saw firsthand the way he dedicated himself to the game he adored, the way he earned a scholarship to play at Clemson, a traditional power in the talent-rich Athletic Coast Conference. She saw how he majored in marketing and thought his career might somehow involve baseball.
"He's just always been a sponge," she said. "He listened to his coaches and it was his thing. After [he's] 10 or 12, you can't make him get up on a Saturday morning and do all that."
In 2011, the Mariners selected Brad in the second round (62nd overall) of the First-Year Player Draft. He spent the next three seasons tearing his way through the organization's Minor League system, posting a .334/.409/.516 slash line in stints with Class A Clinton, Class A Advanced High Desert, Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma.
On June 27, 2013, he was one of the hottest hitters in the organization, extending his 22-game hitting streak with the Rainiers after beginning the season in Double-A. Still, Cheryl and her husband, Steve, had no idea what was coming next.
"We were sleeping and [Brad] called and it was like 1-1:30 in the morning, and both of our phones were on silent, but somehow my husband saw his," she said. "Brad was messing around with him, and then he finally said, 'I got called up!'"
Brad's MLB debut would no doubt come the following night, when the Mariners began a three-game series against the Cubs at Safeco Field. The family had to be there. Hopping on a cross-country flight out of Orlando on short notice came next.
Mom's unruly student was headed to The Show.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.