Left hand reliever Trever Miller makes his second go around with the Houston Astros. Miller 33, signed a $1.3 million deal in January, giving the Astros a second left hander in the bull pen. Miller, who had stints with the Astros in ‘98, and ’99, has played for six major league teams. He’s comfortable being back in Houston, and ready to play for an organization he feels is tops in the league.
But baseball is not the only thing on Millers mind. Leaving his family behind in Tampa, Miller thinks a lot about his wife and kids, and the hardships at home. You see, Trever’s daughter Grace was born with a rare chromosome disorder, leaving her with 2 holes in her heart, which had to be surgically repaired. Young Grace has had many obstacles in her young life, and Miller counts his blessings every day.
A man of high character, family means everything. He spends his time doing crossword puzzles to take his mind off what he had to leave behind, and counts the days until he sees his family.
How does this time around with the Astros compare to the team in the late 90’s?
It’s similar in the character of the ballplayers. I think they like to have guys here that play the game hard, are going to be good in the community, good moral fiber and friendly.
Do you keep in contact with any of the former players from back then?
Occasionally, I have talked to Brian Williams. His wife and my wife talk quite a bit, at least once every two weeks. I talk to some guys I played with in Tampa. I think as ball players, and men in general, it’s tough to stay in contact with guys. We’re not too good with long distance relationships. We do keep up with each other on how you’re performing through the paper or Sports Center.
Who’s the toughest hitter for you to face?
Oh my goodness, left handed Steve Finley has done very well off me. I actually struck him out the last time I faced him. It was kind of a personal accomplishment. Right handed was Dante Bichette. I am glad he retired because I never got that man out.
How would you bat against yourself?
I think that’s a great question. I think a lot pitchers would like to hit off themselves to see what their stuff really does at the plate. If somebody could develop the technology that would be a great tool to really help pitchers understand what their pitch does in the strike zone and what pitch to throw to a certain hitter. I would like face myself though to see how good I can be, one way or the other, hitting or pitching.
What do you think is the most common mistake made by a young pitcher?
I think trying to light up the radar gun for scouts or to see who throws the hardest. I think a lot of guys get injured that way or they get in to awful mechanics and just bad problems result. If they just took away the radar gun, I think you would see a lot of young pitchers actually learn how to pitch instead of throw the baseball.
How do you feel about the strike zone? Do you think they are calling the high strike more this year?
I don’t know. I really just pitch to the hitters weakness with my strengths, either in the strike zone or out. If you are around the game long enough, you know which umpires are more likely to expand the strike zone and which have the smaller strike zone, so …That’s called being prepared before you even go out on the mound. A lot of guys take that for granted. I always see who the umpire is behind the plate and try to remember how he calls balls and strikes and come out there with that information and try to be successful.
What is your favorite pitch?
To lefties, my slider. I think it’s my big league out pitch. Right handed hitters, probably my four seam backed up with the change up.
How is your daughter (Grace) and family doing?
They haven’t been out yet. My wife has come out on an off day to visit me, and my kids visited me in Washington when we played there. They just finished up school. My two oldest will be coming out to visit. My youngest (Grace) can’t travel yet. She’s overcoming a lot of problems and issues she’s had with her chromosome disorder but she has been off the ventilator for about five straight days, so she is doing remarkably well and made a lot of progress, and we keep praying and we’re just waiting to see how this
all turns out for her.
Do you have any special rituals before a game?
Well, I do a cross word puzzle. It’s my routine I do every day, or at least try to do everyday. And, maybe a cup of coffee. I am going to be thirty-three soon, so I need that cup of joe to get me going a little bit.
What was it like facing Bonds and striking him out?
I took a lot of satisfaction away from that one at bat. It was one at bat, but he is Barry, and there is an aura around him, and obviously every at bat was nationally televised, so it wasn’t just seen in Houston, it was seen throughout the world. I received a lot of phone calls from guys congratulating me. I would rather face him in the strike zone and see what the results would be instead of walking him, or hitting him, or pitching around him. That way when I am old and gray, and people remember Barry Bonds, I can sit in my rocking chair and say, “Yep, I faced him.” When they ask me what happened, I can say “I struck him out.”
Were you nervous when he came up to bat?
Gosh, you know, I still get the nerves, still get the butterflies. I think the day I don’t get those running out to the mound is probably the day I should hang them up.
What do you do for relaxation?
I put puzzles together on occasion, and I like to read. Obviously crossword puzzles and puzzles. Anything to keep my mind sharp and to keep it off the game or being away from my family. Last year I made puzzles for my two nephews and they were glow in the dark. I signed them and dated them the day I finished them and put them in frames and gave them to them as gifts and they thought they were really cool.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
There was one both embarrassing and painful. My first spring training in professional baseball, we were throwing batting practice to the hitters. We had the L screen. You’re telling them what you’re throwing and the L screen that I had did not have the slanted bar that you see on some of them. I threw a fastball to a guy, and he hit it right back at the screen, and I didn’t really see it coming, and it hit me right in the face and broke my cheek bone in four places. I had to have surgery and I was out about two months. My eye filled up with blood, I was a mess, and looked horrific, like something out of a horror movie. That was both embarrassing and painful.
What has been your biggest career highlight?
Personally, getting back to the big leagues after coming off an injury, and having a great season in AAA with the Bats. I threw the ball probably the best I could throw it all year long and I never got called up to the big leagues, and I told my wife , “Honey, I don’t know if I’ll ever get back. This couldn’t be it. I can’t throw the ball better than that.” I went to spring training thinking this might be my last one if I don’t have a good spring with the Toronto Blue Jays, in ’03. I grinded it out, had a wonderful spring, made the team, and haven’t looked back since.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
My dad came out to the mound when I was probably twelve. He was filling in as the coach, because the guy went on vacation. The game was blowing up on me. We were winning, the bases were loaded, I think I had walked one, and we were playing against the best team in the league. There were two outs and their best hitter was coming out, and my dad came out and he looked up in the sky and said, “Hey, it’s a great day for pitching, don’t you think?” I said, “Yeah, it is.” And he said, “Then why don’t you try doing something,” and walked off. I stood there and laughed and I didn’t know what to do, and I don’t think any pitching coach to this day has had that simple and that type of motivational advice that he gave me day.
How do you define a hero, and who do you consider to be one?
I think anybody who gives up their life or puts their life on the line for others can be considered a hero. That can go with a lot of professions out there. I think anyone who really overcomes exceptional adversity without complaint can be considered a hero.
Who do you think is the best player in the majors today?
I think one of the best all around players that is underrated is Michael Young. He is phenomenal in the field, strong arm, can hit for average and power, and he keeps his mouth shut and plays the game. That’s what I like about him.
Who influenced you most in life?
Countless people. I don’t think you could pinpoint one person. Obviously your parents have a major role in who you are, your environment, your friends you grew up with and the people you choose to hang around, the person you marry, where you go to church, people who hold you accountable. Jesus is the one person who made me who I am today.