Pro Perspective: Damian Miller
- Minnesota Twins, 1997; Arizona Diamondbacks, 1998 - 2002; Chicago Cubs, 2003; Oakland Athletics, 2004; Milwaukee Brewers, 2005 - 2007.
Wisconsin Born and Bred
Damian Miller was born on October 13, 1969 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He was a multi-sport athlete at West Salem High School, which is just east of La Crosse.
After high school he played ball at a local college named Viterbo University, which is an NAIA school. Damian had a stellar three year career at Viterbo, hitting .505 his junior year and setting a school record.
At the end of the season, he was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 20th round of the 1990 draft.
Damian would go on to spend parts of the next eight seasons working hard in the minor leagues, playing for teams like the Elizabethton Twins, the Kenosha Twins, and the Salt Lake Buzz.
In 1997, Damian was called up to the big leagues that August after a strong 4+ months at the AAA level.
Becoming a Big Leaguer
Damian made his MLB debut for the Twins on August 10, 1997, in an away game against the New York Yankees. He was brought in as a pinch hitter in the ninth and faced now Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera for what had to be an intimidating encounter!
To Damian’s credit, Mariano did not strike him out despite the intense pressure Damian must have felt! Instead, he popped out to right field.
After the '97 season, he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Expansion Draft. Damian went on to play in 54 games for the Diamondbacks during their inaugural 1998 season, hitting .286 that year.
He appeared in even more games for Arizona in '99, splitting time behind the dish with catcher Kelly Stinnett.
In 2000 Damian was the Diamondback's opening day starting catcher, and he caught in 97 of Arizona's 162 games that season. It was also arguably his best season statistically, hitting .275/.347/.441 with a 2.0 WAR.
The 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
Damian was the primary catcher for the Diamondbacks in 2001, playing in 123 regular season games that year. In 2001, he hit .271 with 103 hits and 13 home runs, and he led all NL catchers in Assists, Putouts, Range Factor/Game and Range Factor/9Inn.
The Diamondbacks had a magical season in 2001 and made it to the World Series. They faced the New York Yankees, a team that had won four out of the last five World Series.
The Series went to a decisive game 7 in Arizona. The Diamondbacks were down 2-1 in the ninth inning, and the great closer Mariano Rivera was on the mound. It was looking hopeless for Arizona.
However, after a Mark Grace single, Damian took the plate. He laid down a bunt and reached first on a throwing error by Mariano. It was the start of one of the greatest ninth innings in World Series history.
Amazingly, the Diamondbacks would go on to score two runs that inning and win the Series, with a 3-2 victory.
Career After the World Series
In 2002, Damian had a solid but injury shortened season. It was highlighted by his selection to the NL All Star team, and he went 2 for 3 in the All Star game.
During the offseason, Damian was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Although he didn't hit particularly well in '03, he was an important component of a Cubs team that came so close to a World Series appearance that year.
Once again, Damian was traded in the offseason (2003/2004), this time to the Oakland Athletics. He had a noteworthy season in 2004. That season Damian had a near perfect .999 fielding percentage behind the dish and set career highs at the plate for hits and RBIs.
After the '04 season in Oakland, Damian became a free agent and signed a three year deal with his hometown Milwaukee Brewers.
He appeared in 114 games for the Brewers in 2005, and ended the season with a .273 batting average and .753 OPS. In 2006 his average decreased to .251, and in 2007 he hit just .237 in 58 games.
Damian became a free agent after the '07 season, but ended up retiring after he didn't get signed.
His MLB career totals include nearly 1,000 games played with 864 hits, 87 home runs, a .262 batting average, a .995 fielding percentage and a 37% caught stealing average. Damian also spent 5 seasons in the top 10 among catchers for both caught stealing and fielding percentage.
Q&A with Damian
Damian is a former MLB catcher with nearly 8,000 innings spent playing behind the plate in big league games. He is a former All Star and World Series winner, and he has played on the same teams with legendary Baseball players like Paul Molitor, Randy Johnson, and Curt Schilling.
I wrote to Damian a while ago asking for input on my questions for big league catchers. He graciously took the time to answer each of my questions.
Like the others in this Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Damian’s feedback with readers in the hope that his responses will help catchers who want to improve their game.
Here are Damien’s replies to my questions, as you can also see in the image below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the big leagues?
Answer: Winning the World Series in 2001.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Learning how to be a great receiver.
Question 3: If you could give only one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to one day play professionally, what would it be?
Answer: Learn how to catch the baseball properly, always be willing to work hard and be willing to be a leader.
Two things stand out to me about Damian’s responses. First, the importance of being teachable. Twice he says to “learn” - specifically, learn how to catch/receive - and learning comes through coaching and practice.
Second, Damian talks about the importance of having willingness. In particular, you should have a personal willingness to lead, and a willingness to work hard.
This is another great response from a former pro catcher whose advice includes implementing both the hard and soft skills of catching. To be successful at the next level, you have to have both sets of skills.
Thank you for Reading
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