Get To Know: Kernels Infielder Sean Miller
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (photo of Sean Miller)However, things weren’t looking real good early in the season. On May 2nd, the 21-year-old infielder was hitting just .171/.188/.237 (.424) through the first 19 games with the Kernels. Not exactly numbers that earn a player a promotion, but when Nick Gordon went on the 7-Day disabled list in Ft. Myers, Miller was called up. In his week with the Miracle, Miller played in four games and hit just .125 (2-16).
Gordon came off the DL, and Miller was shipped back to Cedar Rapids. Ironically, some of his baggage arrived in Ft. Myers after Miller returned to Iowa..
Back in Cedar Rapids, things changed. Miller got back to work and the results started showing immediately.
“When I got back, I really started to get to work with Jake (Mauer) and Dink (hitting coach Brian Dinkelman), and they’ve really helped me turn things around. Once I started consistently doing it, it just took off for me. Once you get hot and get confident, it’s kind of hard to go back to... crap, which is what I was doing.”
In 27 games since returning to the Kernels, Miller has hit an impressive.368/.372/.496 (.868) with nine doubles and three triples. In that time, he has hits in 25 of the 27 games, and he’s been on base in all but one game. Because of it, he finds himself hitting at the top of the Kernels lineup.
Drafted in large part due to his ability to play shortstop, he has played all over the diamond for the Kernels already this season.
“I’ve gotten used to playing third and second. I’ve played a lot at third this year. This is the first time I’ve ever played there, but I've learned a lot from Jake over there. He’s taught me and showed me different things.” Miller continued regarding the differences between shortstop and the hot corner, “Maybe the spin on the ball. Balls that are smoked and maybe top-spun, you just have to react. You don’t have time. At short, I have time to move my feet. At third it’s taking different angles and getting used to it.”
Just one year ago, Miller had completed his junior season at USC-Aiken. He was back home with his family. He assumed he wouldn’t be drafted on Day 1, but he figured there was a really good chance he would be taken sometime on Day 2. “I was expecting to go in the Top 10 (rounds) somewhere, I just didn’t know where, I had no idea.”
The draft is always unpredictable. Players may hear all kinds of opinions on where they might be selected. They talk to scouts, but even that doesn’t give them a whole lot of clues. “I met with one Twins scout, one time, in Charlotte, NC, and that’s the only time I talked to them. I got a couple of calls before the tenth (round), but nothing really worked out and all of a sudden I got that call, and it was awesome.”
You’ll find that players hoping to be drafted will try to find anything to keep from following the draft too closely (while at the same time fully understanding what’s going on). His advisor was keeping him updated through much of the day, so Miller spent the morning golfing. However, he was at home during much of the draft.
“I was playing golf, and then I went home sitting on the couch watching TV. My dad had it (the draft) on in the other room. I was done. I was over it. But then he called me into the room, and I said ‘Wow, I’m glad you called me in here.’”
It was appropriate that he was able to share the draft day experience with his father, Steve. When asked who in his life helped him get to where he is today (playing pro ball and finding success), Miller answered very quickly.
“I would say my dad. He played pro ball for several years. He’s been around. He knows more than me. He’s helped me prepare for it, to know to expect or not to expect. The highs and lows of playing. He coached me for two years in HS, freshman and sophomore years, and then he was done.”
It was time for him just to enjoy watching his son play ball. Steve Miller was San Francisco’s 13th-round pick in 1983 and spent five years in the Giants organization. He spent a couple of years in AAA but fell just short of the big leagues. He was known for his glove and for his defense primarily.
Some of the best advice the son has been given by his father? “Don’t get too low, or don’t get to high. If you go 0-20, don’t go out and stay out all night. Still have to treat it like you’re 10-20 or something.”
Sean has an older brother who pitched for four years in college. While Sean is listed at about 5-11, his brother stands 6-7.
So what were Miller’s goals heading into this season?
“I moved up quick last year. I wanted to come in here and do that again, maybe move up at some point. Mainly I just want to get comfortable and show my skills at the plate. I know I can hit. I want to show everyone that I can hit, and I’m starting to. After a rough start, I’m starting to show that I can hit a little bit.”
Though he hasn’t walked a lot through his hot stretch, Miller knows that getting on base will be a key skill for him. “For me I’ve got to get on base and run, use my speed. See more pitches. I mean, I can hit a lot of pitches, but hitting pitches that are in my zone is just going to help me so much. I’ll be successful.”
But that doesn’t mean he he isn’t continuing to work hard on his defensive skills. “I’m definitely a defensive guy, but I want to show that I can swing the bat too. I’m not just a guy who’s going to get infield singles or bloop balls. I’ve got a little pop.”
Miller is talked about as a leader on the team, a real team player on and off of it. He has been active in the Cedar Rapids community already, recently spending time meeting and playing games with elderly. Following each Sunday home game, the Kernels spend a half-hour in the outfield, giving autographs and taking pictures. It’s neat to see how the kids kind of gravitate to Miller.
On the field, Miller continues to improve, and it is possible that at some point he could find himself in Ft. Myers for more than just one week.