A major league dream come true

Ozaukee High School graduate and star college shortstop Owen Miller is drafted by the San Diego Padres with the sixth pick in the third round

OWEN MILLER PLAYED 13 games for the Lakeshore Chinooks last year and hit for the cycle twice in a three-game span (left). Now he’s wearing a new jersey after being drafted sixth in the third round by the San Diego Padres on June 5. Shortly after the draft, Miller, an Ozaukee High School graduate, posed by a sign outside Port Washington State Bank’s Fredonia branch office congratulating him (right). He is playing with the Tri-City Dust Devils, a Padres affiliate in Washington State. Press file photo at left
Ozaukee Press Staff

Like nearly every child, Owen Miller dreamed he would someday play professional baseball.

His father Tom showed him the basics of the game when he was young. Miller played tee ball at 4 years old and then played with older children. Tom coached his son’s Little League team in Fredonia.

“As long as I can remember, he has had a ball and bat in his hands,” his father said. “We also spent a lot of time at the park on our own and had a batting screen in the basement where he also hit off the tee and did soft toss throughout the winter months.”

Owen said he remembers his father “just always had a love for the game, and he passed that on to me.”

Unlike 99% of those kids with major league dreams, however, Miller’s actually became a reality.

It happened at around quarter past noon on June 5.

The 21-year-old star shortstop from Fredonia was drafted by the San Diego Padres after his junior season at Illinois State University.

He was at home with his family live streaming the draft on MLB.com when the magical moment happened. He said he thought he could be taken sometime on the second day of the draft, which started with the second round.

Miller didn’t have to wait long to hear his name.

The Padres drafted him with the sixth pick in the third round, the 84th overall selection.

“It was just an unforgettable experience. As soon as I got my name called, it was a dream come true,” Miller said.

His father concurred.

“It has been a great experience and a very proud moment for the whole family. With all the travel, hard work and sacrifices over the years it was such an incredible feeling when his name got called by the San Diego Padres,” he said.

Owen initially celebrated with his parents and sister. Then grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins flooded the house for congratulatory hugs and handshakes. He has some baseball in his blood -- his uncle pitched at a Division 3 college -- but nobody in his family ever made it to the pros.

Miller said he wasn’t hoping to go to a specific team besides “whoever drafted me highest.” The Padres were a possibility since the week before the draft Miller did well in a workout for the team at Petco Park in San Diego.

On Sunday, June 10, Miller flew to the Padres’ spring training facility in Peoria, Ariz., where he signed a contract and participated in a post-draft minicamp.

Four days later, he flew north to join his new team, the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Padres’ Class A short season affiliate in Pasco, Wash., about three and a half hours southwest of Seattle.

A day later, he played in his first pro game, earning his first hit and RBI.

In five games so far, Miller has collected six hits, including a home run, three RBI and three runs scored. His batting average is .273 and he has already turned a couple of double plays.

Miller said most players on his team are about his age, including seven from this year’s draft class. Some of the players from the Dominican Republic drafted out of high school are as young as 18.

“I’ve definitely met some new people already and it has been fun,” he said.

Handling the quality of play has been going well so far.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a step up, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge adjustment,” Miller said.

The pitching, he said, isn’t faster, “but everybody has a little bit better idea of what they’re doing.”

The Dust Devils play in the Northwest League, where teams hail from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Vancouver. Miller said the longest trip is about six hours via bus.

Miller played in Oregon and Washington during his college career, so he knows at least a little about his new home.

“The Northwest is a really cool area, seeing the mountains,” he said.

The biggest adjustment has been not hearing that “ping” and seeing the ball bounce off his bat quite as fast. In the majors and minors, they use wooden bats. Miller was used to aluminum in college.

“It’s just a little bit different with the weight of the bat and stuff like that,” he said.

The Dust Devils play 76 games this summer, ending in early September. They are 2-3 so far.

If things go well, Miller could be moved to the Padres’ low A-level affiliate, the Tincaps in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“If I get called up there by the end of summer, that would be great. If not, I’ll just keep working hard,” he said.

Miller has yet to meet Padres manager Andy Green and any of the players, but he has met with scouting directors and scouts.

He comes to the Padres organization after a decorated college career at Illinois State, where he succeeded Paul DeJong, now the starting shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller hit .328 as a freshman, .325 as a sophomore and .384 as a junior, including a .433 on-base percentage. In his junior season, Miller broke the school’s single-season record for hits with 88 and scored 45 runs in 52 games, the second most on the team.

His father attended many of his games with the Redbirds in Normal, Ill., as well as road contests.

“I have watched his skills on the field improve every year, and when he went to college, with the help of their strength and conditioning programs, it elevated his game even more,” he said.

Last summer, Miller played 13 games with the Lakeshore Chinooks in the Northwoods League, a summer league for college players, and set a record by hitting for the cycle twice in a three-game span from July 3 to 5.

Miller has one year left to finish his business administration degree. He said he may go back and get it, depending on how his baseball career goes.

At Ozaukee High School, Miller played baseball his freshman season and was selected the team’s most valuable player before playing his final three years in high school with the Hitters Baseball club team in Racine.

In basketball, Miller broke the Warriors’ scoring record with 1,115 points.

Miller was the 11th shortstop to be taken. A total of 1,214 players were drafted.

Miller signed a $500,000 contract with the Padres.

He thanked the community for supporting him and for coming to see him play with the Chinooks in Mequon.

The best part about his experience so far, he said, goes back to that dream he had.

“It’s probably just the fact that I can call myself a professional baseball player now,” he said.

To follow Miller’s season with the Dust Devils, visit www.milb.com/tri-city-dust-devils.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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