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Bob Brenly Jersey

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Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G,” presented by Toyota, will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff, players and alums, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. Today, Bob Brenly remembers his days as a Giants catcher, his lengthy bond with Mike Krukow and that infamous four-error day.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know Bob Brenly as a Giant. My first real recollection of him was as the 2001 World Series-winning manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks — Gonzo (Luis Gonzales) hit the game-winning single off Mariano Rivera, Jay Bell scored, and Brenly threw his arms up in victory.

It wasn’t until 2008, my first year covering the team, that Mike Krukow schooled me on Bob Brenly the Giant. Brenly was Kruk’s personal battery mate for seven seasons, and the two formed an amazing bond. Being that I now have 12 seasons in with Kruk, getting to know Bob over the years has been pretty easy.

I opened our interview with a question about Mike, and it brought an instant smile to Brenly’s face. But no one would have guessed Mike eventually would want Bob to be his personal battery mate — not after witnessing their first time working with each other.

I can speak to this personally: Mike Krukow is one of the best people on the planet, but if he’s going to be your friend, if he’s going to trust you — really trust you — you’re gonna have to prove to him you’re worth it.

Krukow is a hard get, but once he’s in with someone, it’s for life.

“He had a habit of if he was throwing to a catcher for the first time, he was going to make it as difficult as possible. He shook off every sign, and not only did he shake off the sign, he would step off the rubber with this look of disgust and roll his eyes just to embarrass the living daylight out of a young, stupid catcher.

“When he did it to me in San Diego, I wasn’t aware this was one of his things. I’m hanging signs, and he’s shaking his head and shaking his head, and — bam! — a base hit. Bam! — a base hit, another base hit, another base hit, and he’s still shaking me off. So, finally I called timeout as the pitcher was coming to the plate, and I went to the mound and took a while because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. This is a veteran major league pitcher, and I’m a dumb catcher. So, finally I got to the mound and said, ‘Well, let’s see if you can get the blankety-blank pitcher out,’ and I slammed the ball down in his glove, and I walked back behind home plate, and I think that was the moment where he went, ‘OK, I can work with this guy. He’s on the same wavelength that I am.’

“After that, I sort of developed into his personal catcher, and it got to the place where I would put a sign down, and he wouldn’t shake off anymore. He would just start his delivery, and I would know he was going to throw something else. It was like thinking with one brain, and I loved that part of the game. Working with Mike Krukow, it was one of the great joys of my career.”

That friendship blossomed well beyond the diamond. Their families became intertwined through a love of culture, music and a lot of laughter. And when it comes to the intensity that surrounds this game, Krukow and Brenly always have known when it’s time to lighten up things.

“Oh yeah, great friends. We both love classic rock and sometimes oddball music. Jennifer and my wife, Joan, became very good friends as well, and we tried to make sure the team stayed loose when they needed to stay loose, and maybe cracked the whip a little bit if they needed that, too. We hosted parties, we rented a cruise ship out on the Bay one time and dressed up like the guy from ‘The Love Boat,’ Captain Stubing, and had the entire ballclub. … But yeah, we tried to be as inclusive as we could, to make sure everybody felt like they were a part of it.”

One of Mike Krukow’s favorite things about Bob is something you might not know about him: He has a vast knowledge and passion for music. Kruk and his entire family (five kids) all are musically talented, and he has great respect for anyone who has an ear and wants to strum to a beat or two. Brenly fit the bill.

“I’ve always loved music, and I loved going to concerts and music festivals, but it really started when I retired as a player and went into broadcasting. I had a lot of free time, and you can get into a lot of trouble in this game with free time, and I always wanted to learn to play a guitar. And we happened to be in Philadelphia, and I went to a thrift shop. I think it was $75, and I ended up with a cheap acoustic guitar, and I just kind of started teaching myself. I bought books that taught me chords and things like that.

“It’s been like 30 years, and I’m not much better than I was when I started, but I enjoy the living daylights out of it. I take a guitar on every road trip now. I have a little portable amp I can listen to with headphones, and with modern technology, I have apps that you can play along with your music on the iPad, so I find it very relaxing and a very productive hobby.”

When Brenly decided to hang up his cleats, he received an offer to go into broadcasting with the Cubs. He snagged the opportunity to remain in the game in a different capacity, but he never cut ties with the orange and black, and eventually came back West in yet another role — coach, with a chance to work with his greatest mentor, Roger Craig.

“After my second year doing radio, Al Rosen called toward the end of the season and asked if I would be interested in being a coach. And right away, I said, ‘No, I don’t have any interest in riding the buses again. I don’t want to go to Cedar Rapids. I’ve already done the minor leagues.’ And he says, ‘Oh no, no. In the big leagues.’ And, well, that was a different story.

“We had some conversations, and I thought getting an opportunity to coach under Roger — who I probably have more respect for than any man I’ve ever been around in the game of baseball — I thought, ‘This is a good way to see if this is something I really want to do.’ I think in the back of my mind I always thought coaching and managing might be something to do, but here was an open door — a chance to actually get in there and see if it was something I enjoyed.

“So, I left the booth in Chicago, came back to the Giants, one year with Roger — of course, everything that happened in ’93 [the Giants’ 103-59 season], and Dusty [Baker] took over, and I’m very grateful he kept me on his staff. There was a possibility of some changes, but Dusty insisted that I stay on his staff, and I’ll forever be grateful for that.”

So, all I had to do was throw out the date — Sept. 14, 1986 — and …

“Nobody will ever let me forget that day, but it’s one of the best comeback stories of all time.”

I said: “You’re just trying to help out and play third base that day, right? You weren’t even a third baseman.”

“I was already in the dugout with my catcher’s gear on, ready to start the game, and Bob Lillis, I believe it was, came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to have to play third base today. Chris Brown injured himself in batting practice.’ So, I took the gear off, I borrowed a glove from Brad Wellman, one of our utility infielders, and I went down to play third base that day, which wasn’t that unusual. I had played quite a bit at third. I was a third baseman in the minor leagues for the better part of three or four full seasons, so it wasn’t a big deal — it happened all the time.

“But that particular day, Mike LaCoss was on the mound pitching against the Braves, and it just seemed like every ball that was put in play was coming my direction, and I just kept kicking one after another. Made one error on one play, made two errors on one ball when I booted it, and then picked it up and threw it away. Then I made another error, and I think there was even a line drive hit just over my head that hit my glove and went into left field, and the entire ballpark was waiting and watching the board to see, ‘Hit or an error? Hit or an error?’ Well, fortunately, they called it a hit, so I had the four errors in one inning to allow four runs to score, and as Kruk and Kuip and all my teammates back then would tell you, usually in those situations, I destroyed the dugout. I threw bats, I broke helmets, I kicked the restroom door, but for some unknown reason that day, I had this incredible sense of calm came over to me.

“I just sat down in the dugout, and guys were trying to run to the other side [of the dugout] to get out of the line of fire. But it just all of a sudden slowed down. My next at-bat, the ball looked like a beach ball. I felt like I had minutes to make up my mind to swing or not, and I hit a home run and put us on the board. Came up later with the bases loaded and got a hit to drive in a couple more, and then with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, I hit the home run to win it against Paul Assenmacher. To this day, it almost felt like somebody else was doing it and I was just watching and was just going along with whatever was happening on the field.

“My teammates met me at home plate, and Roger had this big grin on his face and later said in the postgame interview, ‘He should win Comeback Player of the Year for that one game.’ It was just one of those days that’s hard to describe, and there’s no way you can predict anything like that happening. It just seemed like I was always around when weird things happened.

“I get snail-mail letters, and emails from time to time, from ministers all over the country that use it as motivation, and use it in their sermons on Sunday mornings. So, I guess that game’s going to live on forever.”

Seems appropriate that we wrap up the interview back where we started, with Brenly’s relationship with the Giants and two of his best Giants friends, Kruk and Kuip.

Our Toyota Fan Question comes from @natsmom77 on Twitter:

“Well, there was no doubt it was Kruk that was in more trouble. He was sneaky. Duane would go over to somebody else and say, ‘Hey …’ and you know, he was always in the corner wiping his hands saying, ‘I had nothing to do with it,’ when you know darn well that it was Kuip that started the whole thing, that Kruk would end up taking the heat for a lot of them.

“I don’t know if I could remember a specific [offense], you know? We had so much fun with that stuff, and so much of it was just ridiculous, but it was all about camaraderie and being able not only to dish it out to your teammates but also take it from your teammates, and there were too many with Krukow to single out one. But Kuip was the sneaky one — he was.

“I’ll tell you one quick Kuiper story. We had a pitching coach by the name of Herm Starrette, and Herm was a very agreeable gentleman. And Kuip one day, I was sitting on a bench next to him, and he says, ‘Watch this.’ And he went down to Herm, and he says, ‘Herm’ — we were, I believe, playing the Phillies’ Greg Gross, one of their good left-handed pinch-hitters — ‘Herm, that Greg Gross, boy I liked that guy. He always comes up with big base hits late in the game,’ and Herm just [said], ‘By golly, Kuip, I like him a lot, too.’

“And then Kuip came back to me and says, ‘Now you go down there and tell him you hate Greg Gross.’ So, then I would walk down and very casually [say], ‘You know, Herm, I can’t stand that Greg Gross. He’s always up there taking his time between pitches, and he acts like he owns the field.’ … [Herm says] ‘I know, Bobby. I never have liked him.’

“So, we used to have a lot of fun with Herm, kind of playing ping pong with him, but then you know, once again, Kuip was always behind all of it, stirring it up.”

Follow Amy G on Twitter @AmyGGiants, on Instagram @amyg, on Facebook, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Giants coverage all season.

David Peralta Jersey

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Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta will undergo shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the 2019 season, manager Torey Lovullo announced in an appearance on 98.7 FM Arizona Sports today (Twitter link via 98.7’s John Gambadoro). Specifics on the procedure, including a timeline, have yet to come to light.

Peralta, 32, has thrice been placed on the 10-day injured list due to inflammation in his right AC joint this season — the most recent placement coming on Saturday. The ongoing discomfort, it seems, has reached a point where continued rest and rehab won’t suffice.

Shoulder troubles limited Peralta to just 99 games this season and may have contributed to the downturn in offensive performance he experienced this year. While he still turned in an above-average .275/.343/.461 batting line (104 OPS+), that output falls shy of 2018’s robust .293/.353/.516 performance (127 OPS+).

Peralta’s name came up a bit prior to the July 31 trade deadline, but it was never clear that the team was all that focused on moving Peralta, who is controlled through the 2020 season via arbitration. Peralta earned $7MM this year on the heels of that solid showing, and he’ll be eligible for one more raise this winter before qualifying for free agency in the 2020-21 offseason. Any trade involving Peralta this winter would obviously constitute selling low, and the D-backs’ outfield situation is teeming with uncertainty. Jarrod Dyson and Adam Jones will be free agents at season’s end, while Steven Souza is recovering from a catastrophic knee injury (torn ACL, torn LCL, partially torn PCL, torn capsule).

Corbin Martin Jersey

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Astros righty Corbin Martin is down for the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Martin had been pitching at Triple-A on optional assignment after debuting in the majors earlier this year.

Entering the 2019 campaign, the 23-year-old Martin was graded as one of the game’s top 100 prospects and seen by the Houston organization as a key near-term depth piece. He already took five MLB starts for the club in just his third season as a professional.

Martin wasn’t able to establish himself in the Astros rotation, working to a 5.59 ERA with 19 strikeouts and a dozen walks over 19 1/3 innings. He was done in by the long ball, coughing up eight. But Martin is hardly the first young hurler to have some early hiccups and had turned in good results at Triple-A prior to his promotion.

This injury dents both the depth and the upside of the Houston pitching staff, a strong unit that nevertheless seems a likely area to upgrade at the trade deadline. The loss of Martin comes amidst ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brad Peacock. There are plenty of other options to patch things up for the time being — Jose Urquidy just got the call; Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez are among those available at Triple-A — but it’s hard to imagine the ’Stros won’t look far and wide for new arms. Indeed, it seems that pursuit has already begun.

All indications are that the injury occurred after Martin’s demotion; Luhnow specifically said so this afternoon, in fact. (Via Rome, on Twitter.) If that is indeed the case, then Martin will not accrue MLB service time while he is sidelined. Given the typical year-plus layoff occasioned by a TJ procedure, it’s likely that Martin won’t be seen again at the game’s highest level until late in 2020 or early in the 2021 campaign.

David Dellucci Jersey

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OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – When David Dellucci makes a promise, he intends to keep it. It’s the mindset that drove the Rebel great back to school more than two decades since he took his last college course. He already has about all the accolades a potential college graduate can ask for, but that doesn’t matter to him, because he has a commitment to uphold.

“I promised my grandfather, when he was alive, that I would go back and get my degree when I signed to play professional baseball,” Dellucci said.

He fulfilled his promise to the late Carlo Polito on Saturday, when he walked across the stage at The Pavilion to receive his degree from the University of Mississippi, 24 years after he last stepped onto the Ole Miss campus as a student.

Dellucci’s academic plans had to take a backseat to his 13-year professional baseball career, an illustrious one that saw him crowned a 2001 World Series Champion.

His dream of graduating from college, however, never faded, and when the Rebel Reconnect program allowed him the opportunity to finish his schooling online, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I feel like Ole Miss took a chance on me as a young man and a young baseball player out of high school, and they offered me an opportunity to get a degree and better my life,” Dellucci said. “It is important on my end to complete that commitment that they offered to me. I owe it back to them to finish my degree, so it’s a two-way street.”

It wasn’t an easy process for the retired MLB player. Now a husband and father, Dellucci has had to juggle his family life and busy work schedule with the added work of a course load.

“It’s not easy,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “For baseball players, especially guys that have a long career like he did, now you’re established. You’re married with a family in Baton Rouge. It makes it a lot more difficult to make that happen. I know the difficulty that it takes to come back and finish.”

Dellucci, however, knows a thing or two about the work required to turn a dream into reality.

When he left campus in 1995, Dellucci held the program record for most career total bases (430), most career runs scored (181), most home runs in a single season (17), most RBI in a single season (63) and most stolen bases in a single season (31), not to mention top-five finishes in just about every single offensive category there is to offer.

Dellucci is still an easy find in the Ole Miss record book, but in the 24 years since he last donned the Red and Blue, he’s watched his name slowly slide down the list of school record holders.

“I was athlete of the year in 1995, I won the SEC batting title, and I did all that stuff which is great, but records get broken and statistics get forgotten,” Dellucci said. “One thing that can never get taken away from me is my college degree from the University of Mississippi.”

Dellucci walked across The Pavilion stage on Saturday and received his degree in University Studies. It was a day to remember for the Rebel great, who was adamant about playing a part in the graduation festivities in Oxford.

“When you go to college and reach the ultimate goal of earning a degree, this is the pinnacle,” Dellucci said. “This is what you set out to do – to walk across the stage and get your degree that took you four years, or in my case 24 years, to achieve. I’m not going to stay at home and wait for it to come in the mail, I’m going to go walk across that stage.”

Though he won’t be the oldest Rebel to graduate in 2019, he’ll certainly have some years on the average age in The Grove on Saturday. In Dellucci’s defense, at least he has the hardware to back up his 20-year hiatus from academia.

“I had some colleagues at the SEC Network joke around that I should go up there with my World Series ring and then maybe people will understand that I had other priorities over the last 20 years,” Dellucci said.

Dellucci has amassed quite the resume over the years, from All-American in college, to World Series Champion in the MLB, to ESPN broadcaster and the current host of Rally Cap, the SEC Network’s premiere college baseball and softball show. To him, though, the distinction of college graduate ranks right up there with his greatest achievements.

“It’s up there with winning the World Series,” Dellucci said.

Just a few months ago, Ole Miss fans selected Dellucci to grace the 2019 Swayze Field banners outside the main concourse at Oxford-University Stadium, along with fellow Rebel great J.B. Woodman, who also returned to finish up his degree this season. It’s just one of the many ways that the people of Oxford have always made him feel welcome on campus.

“Ole Miss took me in,” Dellucci said. “I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — LSU Tiger country — and I chose Ole Miss because of the southern hospitality and the way that the fans and the residents of Oxford treated me. Oxford is a wonderful, small town.”

Dellucci’s role with the SEC Network includes serving as color analyst on game broadcasts, and early in the season, he is able to call several Ole Miss home games. Those are opportunities for the current Rebel players to spend time with Dellucci and be reminded of the legends before them who helped craft Ole Miss into a national powerhouse.

“I think it’s great for our current players,” Bianco said. “There’s a former major leaguer and somebody who was an All-American, and here he is in the dugout before our games. He’s just a great ambassador.”

Bianco currently has a handful of draft-eligible juniors and non-graduating seniors on his roster who hope to hear their name called in June’s 2019 MLB Draft, which could potentially cut their academic careers short. He just hopes that whenever their retirement from the game may be, their love for the University of Mississippi will one day draw them back to the Ole Miss campus, as Dellucci’s did.

“You hope that, like David, they have an affinity for Ole Miss,” Bianco said. “They obviously like this place to come here out of high school or junior college, but like David, you’re hoping that 20 years down the road, their love for it is only going to grow. That’s my hope for all the guys who play here.”

Dellucci has always been a graduate of the Ole Miss baseball program, but as of Saturday, he will officially be David Dellucci, graduate of the University of Mississippi.

“We’ve always looked at him as one of our alumni, but we’re proud that he can officially get that piece of paper,” Bianco said.

Damian Miller Jersey

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In 2002, in his sixth major-league season and 12th season of professional baseball, Damian Miller was named to the National League All-Star team.

His manager was happy his catcher received the recognition.

“I definitely have a soft spot for guys like Miller,” Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. “They’re the guys who weren’t drafted high but worked their way to the top. A lot of people don’t realize how the odds are stacked against these guys. They don’t get free passes like some bonus babies do.”1

Miller was born on October 13, 1969, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. After graduating from West Salem High School, where he had been a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, and baseball), Miller enrolled at Viterbo University in La Crosse. Miller is the only major leaguer to be produced by the Catholic liberal-arts school (enrollment 2,700 in 2015), whose athletic teams competed at the NAIA level. The school has produced 11 professional baseball players.

As a freshman, Miller batted .312 with one home run and 19 RBIs in 26 games for the V-Hawks. As a sophomore, he hit .409 — the fourth-best single-season mark in school history — with 3 home runs and 22 RBIs in 34 games.

As a junior Miller batted .505 — the top single-season mark in school history — with 6 home runs and 46 RBIs (the RBIs were fourth-best in school history) in 36 games. He was named the NAIA District 14 Player of the Year after helping the V-Hawks get to within one game of the NAIA World Series. After the season he was selected in the 20th round of the 1990 amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins.

In his three seasons with the V-Hawks, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Miller set school career records for batting average (.419), doubles (29), and RBIs (87). In 96 games he hit 10 home runs and had a .632 slugging percentage.

After signing with the Twins, Miller began his 18-year professional career with Elizabethton of the Appalachian League. He hit a home run in his first professional at-bat, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs against Johnson City on June 22. But his rookie season was cut short when he suffered a season-ending thumb injury in a collision at the plate on August 6.

While Miller recovered from the injury, he began the 1991 season at extended spring training. In the first week of May, he went 11-for-13 in five games to show that he was healthy. On May 10 he joined Kenosha (Wisconsin) of the Class-A Midwest League. He spent both the 1991 and 1992 seasons with Kenosha.

Miller, a right-handed batter, blossomed in his second season with Kenosha, hitting .292 with a .385 on-base percentage. Defensively, he threw out 38 percent of baserunners attempting to steal. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team.

In 1993 Miller got his first taste of a big-league spring training by appearing in seven Twins exhibition games, going 0-for-4 as a nonroster player. He started the 1993 season at Fort Myers of the Class-A Florida State League. He hit just .212, but he was solid defensively as he threw out 33 percent of potential basestealers. His only home run was a grand slam on July 15 against Daytona. He finished the season in Double A after being promoted to Nashville on August 29. After another brief stint as a nonroster invitee in 1994, going 0-for-1 in two games, he spent the entire 1994 season with Nashville, rebounding with a .268 batting average in 103 games. He threw out 42 percent (third-best in the league) of potential basestealers.

Miller spent the entire 1995 and 1996 seasons with Triple-A Salt Lake City. In 1996 he hit .286 in 104 games and had a 15-game hitting streak (22-for-62, .355) from April 15 to May 5. His fielding percentage of .991 was tied for second-best in the league. He threw out 42 percent of potential basestealers.

In both seasons Miller again went to spring training with the Twins as a nonroster invitee. In late March of 1997 he was told that he would again start the season at Salt Lake. But he remained with the Twins until the end of spring training as an extra player and bullpen catcher.

“I never really was a candidate to make the team in training camp,” said Miller. “It did give me enough of a taste of what big-league life might be like that I wanted it even more. I would say, ‘Man, I don’t want to go back to the minors,’ but I always would.”2

He put together solid numbers with Salt Lake in 1997. In 85 games, he hit 11 home runs and had 82 RBIs while batting a career-high .338. He was called up to the Twins on August 9 as a replacement for catcher Greg Myers, who was put on the disabled list with an ankle injury.

Miller made his major-league debut on August 10 against the New York Yankees as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. The Twins, who were trailing 9-6, had runners at second and third with nobody out against reliever Mike Stanton. After Miller was announced as a pinch-hitter, the Yankees replaced the left-handed Stanton with closer Mariano Rivera. Miller popped out to right field.

After going 0-for-1 in each of the Twins’ losses on August 11 and 12, Miller made his first big-league start on August 13 in Toronto. In his second at-bat of game, Miller singled to left field off Blue Jays starter Woody Williams for his first major-league hit.

On August 19, Miller hit his first major-league home run, in Detroit off Tigers starter Willie Blair. His two-run blast in the fifth inning was responsible for all of Minnesota’s runs in an 8-2 loss to the Tigers.

Miller put together a seven-game hitting streak — going 10-for-25 — in mid-September. He punctuated the streak with his first major-league grand slam, off Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Jeff D’Amico in a 5-2 victory in Minneapolis. In 25 games for the Twins in 1997, he hit .273 (18-for-66) with 2 home runs and 13 RBIs.

After the season, Miller was not among the 15 players protected by the Twins in the expansion draft to stock the rosters of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. On draft day, November 18, he was taken by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the draft. Miller got an extended look in Arizona’s first spring training.

The Arizona Republic’s daily training camp log reported, “Damian Miller has been battling Kelly Stinnett for the No. 2 catching job behind Jorge Fabregas. Miller has struggled a bit hitting .174 with one home run and two RBIs while Stinnett has had a solid spring. But Manager Buck Showalter, not wanting to miss out on a chance to keep Miller on the squad because of his power as a right-handed hitter, has expanded Miller’s horizons instead of limiting them. While some of the Diamondbacks traveled to Phoenix for a game against Oakland on Friday night, Miller stayed behind and took a bucketful of grounders at first base.”3

The Diamondbacks decided to open their inaugural season with Fabregas and Stinnett, so Miller was optioned to Triple-A Tucson. He got off to a good start, hitting .349 with 11 RBIs in 18 games. He was recalled on May 6 and made his National League debut that night at New York’s Shea Stadium in the Diamondbacks’ 8-2 loss to the Mets. Miller entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter for Brent Brede, who had also been selected from the Twins in the expansion draft. Facing Mets closer John Franco, Miller reached base on an error by second baseman Carlos Baerga.

Miller made his first start for the Diamondbacks on May 24 at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 2-for-3 in Arizona’s 8-5 victory.

Another highlight of the season for Miller was his first major-league appearances in his home state of Wisconsin. On July 31 he went 1-for-4 in the Diamondbacks’ 8-2 victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee. Two days later, he went 3-for-3 with a solo home run in a 7-2 loss to the Brewers. For the season, he hit a team-leading .286 in 57 games with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs.

After hitting .264 in 53 at-bats in spring training in 1999, Miller began the season on an Opening Day roster for the first time. He and Stinnett split the catching duties for the Diamondbacks that season. Miller batted .270 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 86 games. He missed the final two weeks of the regular season and the playoffs after a suffering a hairline fracture near his right thumb while blocking a pitch in the dirt in a game against the Rockies in Denver on September 21. Before he left the game in the ninth inning, he had homered twice — his first multiple-home-run game.

Miller participated in a defensive rarity in the Diamondbacks’ 4-0 victory over visiting San Diego on May 25. He teamed with pitcher Randy Johnson for three strikeout/throw-out double plays. It was the first time a catcher had participated in three double plays of that nature since Shanty Hogan of the New York Giants in 1931.

The Diamondbacks went into the 2000 season with Miller and Stinnett again sharing the catching duties. On April 4 Miller made the first Opening Day start of his career and celebrated by hitting a three-run home run in his first at-bat in the Diamondbacks’ 6-4 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.

On May 9 Miller hit a solo home run and a walk-off grand slam off Orel Hershiser in the 12th inning of Arizona’s 11-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The five RBIs were a career high. On August 16 he went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs in Arizona’s 5-1 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia, the first four-hit game of his career.

For the second time in as many years, Miller’s season came to end prematurely with an injury on September 21. He suffered a sprained right foot in the sixth inning of Arizona’s 8-7 loss to the Giants in San Francisco. Miller had doubled in his final at-bat. For the season, Miller appeared in 100 games and batted .275 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs.

Miller became the regular catcher for the Diamondbacks in 2001, playing in a career-high 123 games (111 starts). He got off to a slow start offensively. On May 29 he was hitting just .218. Over his next 48 appearances, between May 30 and August 11, he batted .335 with 12 doubles, 8 home runs, and 25 RBIs. In a six-game stretch in late July, he went 13-for-22 and had the second four-hit game of his career. Even though he was hampered late in the season by a strained right shoulder, he finished the regular season with a .271 batting average, a career-high 13 home runs, and 47 RBIs.

With 92 victories, the Diamondbacks earned their second National League West Division title. In the Division Series against St. Louis, Miller went 4-for-15 in the Diamondbacks’ series victory in five games. In their conquest of Atlanta in five games in the National League Championship Series, he went 3-for-17. In the World Series against the New York Yankees, he went 4-for-21 with two doubles and two RBIs. In Game Seven the Diamondbacks went into the bottom of the ninth trailing 2-1 with Mariano Rivera on the mound for the Yankees. Mark Grace led off the inning with a single, bringing Miller to the plate. Miller bunted and Rivera threw wildly to second base trying to get pinch-runner David Dellucci at second. The Diamondbacks went on to score two runs to win the game, 3-2, and the World Series.

A controversy involving Miller developed after the Series. Miller, who had been a replacement player during spring training in 1995, was not a member of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Some of his teammates wanted Miller to be included in the royalties from World Series souvenirs. But they were voted down. Miller’s name does not appear on any official commemorative merchandise from the 2001 World Series.

Miller started the 2002 season strong. After going hitless on Opening Day, he went 21-for-69 with 22 RBIs in his next 20 contests. His 22 RBIs in April were a monthly high for his career. During that stretch he had three four-RBI games and twice he was part of three consecutive home runs by the Diamondbacks — Steve Finley, Miller, and Grace on April 28, and Danny Bautista, Finley, and Miller on May 3. On June 30, batting .285, he was named to the National League All-Star team as a reserve. In the All-Star Game, on July 9, at Milwaukee, he went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI in the 11-inning, 7-7 tie.

After the All-Star break Miller was limited by a lower back strain and from July 24 to August 14 he was on the disabled list for the first time in his career. After playing in 71 of Arizona’s 87 games before the All-Star Game, he started just 24 times in the second half. Four days after coming off the disabled list, Miller hit his first inside-the-park home run in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The Diamondbacks earned their second consecutive division title with 98 victories, but they were swept in the Division Series by the St. Louis Cardinals. Miller was 1-for-2 against the Cardinals.

For the season, he batted .249 with 22 doubles, 11 homers, and 42 RBIs in 101 games. Defensively, he was the top catcher in the National League with a .997 fielding percentage, throwing out 38 percent of would-be basestealers. He did not make an error until August 31, and made only two all year.

Miller, who was paid $2.7 million in 2002, went into the offseason eligible for arbitration for the first time. On November 13, the Diamondbacks traded him to the Chicago Cubs for two minor leaguers, outfielder Gary Johnson and pitcher David Noyce.

The Cubs acquired Miller to be their regular catcher in 2003 and he played in 114 games. He hit a career low .233 with 9 home runs and 36 RBIs for the National League Central champion Cubs. In the postseason for the third consecutive year, Miller went 1-for-11 in the Cubs’ 3-2 series victory over Atlanta in the National League Division Series and then went 2-for-10 in their loss to Florida in the Championship Series.

In December the Cubs traded Miller to the Oakland Athletics. It was reported that he was sent to the Athletics as a player to be named when the Cubs acquired catcher Michael Barrett. But it was technically a separate deal as the Cubs agreed to pay $800,000 of Miller’s $3 million salary and the teams agreed to exchange minor leaguers before the 2004 season opener.

Miller rebounded to hit .272 in 2004 and reached career highs with 58 RBIs, 397 at-bats, 108 hits, and 25 doubles while matching his career high with 39 walks. He hit five of his nine home runs and had 25 of his 58 RBIs in a 20-game stretch from June 6 to July 3. Between June 6 and June 11, he had five consecutive multiple-RBI games, driving in 16 runs total. In 19 games in June, he had 20 RBIs — the second-best month of his career. Between June 25 and July 8, Miller put together a career-high 10-game hitting streak (17-for-40).

Miller set an Oakland team record with a .999 fielding percentage with just one error. He began the season with 96 consecutive errorless games before committing his only error of the season on September 11. The error was his first since July 18, 2003, and ended a streak of 139 consecutive errorless games and 1,012 total chances without an error. That was the sixth-longest streak of consecutive errorless chances by a catcher in major-league history.

After the 2004 season, Miller became a free agent. On November 23, he and the Milwaukee Brewers reached agreement on a three-year contract worth a reported $8.75 million. The deal was held up briefly until team medical personnel could evaluate an MRI of Miller’s right shoulder.

“Over the last three years, Damian has dealt with some great pitching staffs with the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Athletics and he’s been in pennant races with all of them,” Brewers’ general manager Doug Melvin said. “This no doubt will bring a lot to this ballclub. Plus, we’ve scuffled for two years at the bottom of the lineup. We’re hoping he can help out there too.”4

Miller and Chad Moeller split the catching duties for the Brewers in 2005. Miller appeared in 114 games and ranked third among National League catchers with a .996 fielding percentage. He batted .273 with 25 doubles, 9 home runs and 43 RBIs. In 2006, Miller played in 101 games and batted .251 with a career-high 28 doubles, 6 home runs, and 38 RBIs. In the Brewers’ 11-0 victory over the visiting Cincinnati Reds on April 22, he tied his career highs with four hits and five RBIs. He was one of five Brewers to hit a home run in their seven-run fourth inning. It was the fifth time in major-league history that a team hit five home runs in an inning. At the All-Star break, Miller was hitting .273 with 5 home runs and 28 RBIs. He batted just .207 after the break.

In 2007 Miller played in just 58 games, his fewest since 1998, and batted just .237 with 4 home runs and 24 RBIs. Despite his weakness at the plate, Miller had two offensive highlights. On June 27 against the Houston Astros on “La Crosse Day,” Miller hit a walk-off, three-run home run in the 11th inning to give the Brewers a 6-3 victory. (It was the second walk-off home run of his career.) In his next start, on July 2, he enjoyed the best game of his career, going 4-for-5 with two home runs, including his sixth career grand slam, and driving in a career-high seven runs.

After the season, Miller filed for free agency but went unsigned. Early in the 2008 season, he drew interest from the New York Yankees after Jorge Posada was hurt and the San Diego Padres after Barrett was hurt. But Miller declined. “If I came back now, it would be only for the money and, if you play baseball, that’s not why you should do it,” Miller said on May 5 at a meeting of the Wisconsin State Associated Press sports editors. Miller told the group there was only one team that could convince him to play — the Brewers.5

In his 11-year major-league career, Miller batted .262 with 87 home runs and 406 RBIs in 989 games. He summed up his career by saying, “The most important thing for me was being a good teammate. Do the little things right, be respectful to your teammates, to the other team and the game.”6

After retiring, Miller returned to his hometown, La Crosse, where he helped coach youth baseball teams, including West Salem’s 16-and-under Legion team and the Coulee Christian High School team. After five seasons as an assistant at Coulee Christian, Miller took over as the head coach in 2017. As of 2018 he also coached basketball at the school.

Miller and his wife, Jeanne, have known each other since first grade. They started dating as high-school juniors and married shortly after graduating from high school. They have two children.

Miller was named to the Viterbo University Wall of Fame in 2001 and the La Crosse Area Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Last revised: December 1, 2018

This biography appeared in “Time for Expansion Baseball” (SABR, 2018), edited by Maxwell Kates and Bill Nowlin.

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Leading off a game at Salt River Fields last week, Geraldo Perdomo took five fastballs, four of them wide of the strike zone, tossed his bat aside and trotted to first base. In his next trip to the plate, he took another fastball for a ball, then shot a curveball into center field for a single.

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Perdomo, the Diamondbacks’ young shortstop prospect, recognizes offspeed stuff well. He has good hand/eye coordination and makes consistent contact. He seems to swing at the right pitches. Most important, he finds his way on base at a steady clip.

During his time in the Arizona Fall League, Perdomo, who turns 20 this month, has exhibited the kind of offensive approach that has helped him quickly ascend through the minor leagues. It also is an approach the Diamondbacks are cultivating throughout their system.

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The first batch of position-player prospects under Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen are nearing the majors. Many have attributes similar to Perdomo.

Catcher Daulton Varsho, first baseman Pavin Smith and Perdomo all are coming off seasons in which they rarely struck out. Three prospects acquired via trade – first baseman Seth Beer, infielder/outfielder Josh Rojas and infielder Andy Young – each had a relatively low strikeout rate, high walk rate or good on-base percentage, or some combination. The same could be said of young outfielders Alek Thomas, Kristian Robinson and Corbin Carroll.

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By and large, those players make up the organization’s next wave of hitters. To varying degrees, the Diamondbacks believe they all have a prevailing skill. They all have the ability to control the strike zone.

“We feel like the best hitters in baseball have that skill, have the ability to do that,” Hazen said. “Contact is important. We know that strikeouts are a part of the game – guys are going to strike out – and there are times you sell out to power. But being complete hitters is maximizing all those skills. Those guys have those skills. It’s something we value and we’re going to value moving forward.”

The Diamondbacks are not breaking new ground in their focus on controlling the zone, but it does stand in contrast to the type of team they were before Hazen and his group arrived. In 2016, the Diamondbacks had the fourth-highest strikeout rate and tied for the third-worst walk rate in the National League.

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That led to the front office putting an emphasis on approach in the 2017 draft. Smith, the Diamondbacks’ choice that year at No. 7 overall, not only had more walks (38) than strikeouts (12) as a junior at the University of Virginia – he had more home runs (13), as well. After a slow start to his pro career, Smith finished this season with solid numbers (.291 average, .835 OPS) in Double-A.

Making sound swing decisions leads not only to good on-base ability, it also “pretty much translates in all the damage you do,” Diamondbacks minor league hitting coordinator Joe Mather said.

In the first part of the series, you told us who would be the starting eight on the D-backs, selecting just from those players who finished the year under Arizona control. Now, it’s time to fill out the bench roster. This does require a little more than a straight vote, for a couple of reasons. One: we need to ensure coverage at all positions. Two: there will be a 26th man available next season, due to the roster changes. Will this be used on Opening Day to give the D-backs an extra bullpen arm, or to extend manager Torey Lovullo’s bench?

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To ensure coverage, I have gone for one backup catcher, a middle infielder, a corner infielder and two outfielders. We have seen the fondness of Lovullo for having three catchers, but that approach seemed to be quietly dropped as the season progressed, and I think we’ll probably see that again going forward. Part of the reason for having three catchers was to allow for greater offensive ability to pinch-hit. But that tactic makes rather more sense when you have Jeff Mathis on your roster, than when you have Carson Kelly. Two spare outfielders also makes sense, given Ketel Marte’s ability to go back to the middle infield when necessary.

So, here are the five players who received most votes for those positions, based on the 320 ballots filled in.

Backup C: Alex Avila (125 votes)
If the fans had their way, we’d probably only have one catcher, and just run Kelly out there every day. But that’s not practical: only two catchers in the majors last year reached even 115 starts (Yasmani Grandal and J.T. Realmuto). Despite missing five weeks early due to injury, Avila had a solid bounceback season. The BA wasn’t great (.207), but he had great plate discipline, with a 17.9% walk-rate; among hitters with 200+ PA, only Mike Trout and Brandon Nimmo were higher. He will be a free-agent, coming off a two-year contract worth $8.25 million, and turns 33 in January. It’ll be interesting to see whether he stays in Arizona, or if the team looks for a cheaper, perhaps more defensively-minded alternative.

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Backup CI: Kevin Cron (132)
Cron wasn’t able to reproduce his AAA numbers – but, then again, how could he deliver a 1.223 OPS? In the end, he came in slightly below average, with a 98 OPS+ in his rookie year. In a small sample size, the power was there – six home-runs in only seventy-eight PA. But so were the strikeouts, with a K-rate of 35.9%, and a K:BB ratio of 7:1. That’ll have to change in his sophomore campaign, if the graduate of Mountain Pointe HS here in Phoenix wants to become a solid back-up to Christian Walker. In his defense, most (24 of 39) of Cron’s appearances came off the bench, and he performed creditably as a pinch-hitter with an OPS of .815 in that role.

Backup MI: Ildemaro Vargas (231)
Quite surprised to realize this was actually Vargas’s third season in the majors. But we saw a lot more of him in 2019, appearing in 92 games, compared to 12 and 14 the previous two years. His positional flexibility is key to his securing a roster spot. While he played most at second-base, he also started at third and shortstop, and even played some inning in both corner outfield spots. He made just one error in approaching three hundred innings at second, and didn’t embarrass himself at the plate, with an OPS+ of 82. A few more walks would be nice, as he only had nine in 211 PA, though Vargas struck out just 24 times, so was clearly putting the ball in play.

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Backup OF #1: Josh Rojas (268)
A bit of a surprise here, to see rookie Rojas receive most votes among the bench candidates. Might be some home cooking here, Arizona fans feeling a special attachment to a man born and brought up locally, just a few miles from SnakePit Towers. Josh is probably the first to play for the D-backs, who was a fan growing up. He was also the first prospect received from the Astros in the Zack Greinke trade to reach the majors. While his impact was limited (OPS+ of 64, 0.0 bWAR in 41 games), he didn’t embarrass himself in his rookie season. As the outfield is an area where we don’t have much depth at the higher end of the minors, he will potentially be useful next year, at minimum cost.

Backup OF #2: Steven Souza Jr. (232)
The first two seasons of Souza’s time here have been an almost unmitigated disaster, with just 72 games played, none of them in 2019, and a value below replacement level. Steven is under team control for next year, in his final year of arbitration. But Souza has to be considered a non-tender candidate, even if he will get little or no increase from this year’s salary of $4.125 million. On the other hand, the lack of credible alternative candidates mean that price-tag would not be bad value, if he was able to return to the level of production seen when fully healthy, prior to 2018 (OPS+ of 105, 2.6 bWAR per 650 PA). Keyword in that sentence is, obviously, “if”…

26th man: Jake Lamb (122)
If the team were to go with an extra bench bat, Lamb was selected by readers to fill that spot. That might not be a bad position for him. As a left-hander, he would be a platoon partner for Walker/Cron at first, and Lamb can also play on the other corner of the infield. However, MLB Trade Rumors project a $5 million arbitration figure for Jake, which is high for an occasional player. He also struggled even against RHP this year, batting .177 with a .607 OPS, when previously that was his biggest plus: “Well, at least Lamb rakes against righties.” In 2019, not so much. Whether the team decides that was a blip or not, may well determine whether or not he is tendered a contract or follows Chris Owings into the wilderness.

Not selected
Jarrod Dyson (119)
Domingo Leyba (109)
Caleb Joseph (84)
Abraham Almonte (79)
Adam Jones (73)
Blake Swihart (29)
Yasmany Tomas (13)
Some free-agents to be of note here, including Dyson and Jones. It seems most people see Tim Locastro as a cheaper alternative to Dyson. And for all the benefits of Jones’s clubhouse presence, he’s clearly on the downside of his career, putting up his lowest OPS+ (87) in more than a decade. The rest are a combination of those whose future is still in front of them (Leyba and Joseph), apparently fungible outfield types (Almonte and Swihart)… And, in last place, the albatross which is Yasmany Tomas. He received just 13 votes. I’ll have to check the IP address those came from, I’d not be surprised if they were all over towards the East of the country… :)

Next up, probably after the weekend, the starting pitchers!

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“Guys who are pretty aggressive are going to see fewer pitches in their zone because the at-bat is going to be over sooner,” Mather said. “For a guy like Perdomo, who does a really good job of taking pitches out of the zone, it forces pitchers back in the zone, which is going to give him far more opportunities to hit balls over the middle of the plate.”

Arizona Diamondbacks catching prospect Daulton Varsho during spring training workouts on Feb. 15, 2019 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Arizona Diamondbacks catching prospect Daulton Varsho during spring training workouts on Feb. 15, 2019 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

As it happens, Perdomo is the only one of the aforementioned players that the Hazen regime inherited. The Diamondbacks signed him out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016, some three months before Hazen was hired. Still, Hazen has opted to keep him; the same is not true of the strikeout-prone Jazz Chisholm, another shortstop prospect whom the Diamondbacks traded to the Miami Marlins in July for starting pitcher Zac Gallen.

Before a fall league game last week, Perdomo described his approach as being dependent upon how he is pitched. If a pitcher is throwing strikes, Perdomo said he will appear aggressive. If not, he will wait him out. Asked how he was able to learn to hit like this, he said he considers himself fortunate.

“I was born like that,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “That’s me. Nobody taught me how to hit like that.”

The Diamondbacks believe there is some universal truth to that. Hazen thinks an ability to control the zone is more innate than, say, good swing mechanics, but the club puts significant time into honing hitters’ approaches in the minors. One way it does that, Mather said, is to make batting practice more game-like by having hitters take rounds of BP in which they might not swing the bat if the pitches don’t call for it.

“We have them really lock into their pitch,” Mather said. “We’re not worried about them getting their five full swings. We’re worried about them making the right decisions.”

The organization also tries to be proactive with prospects who aren’t as advanced in their approaches. One example came early this season, when coaches sat down with Low-A infielder Blaze Alexander to encourage him to be more selective.

“It’s important because you have to learn this at the lower levels or you’ll never figure it out up here,” Diamondbacks Assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye said. “You’re trying to teach him that approach and hopefully it all meshes when he gets to Double-A or Triple-A.”

It will be years before anyone knows for sure if this wave of young position players can develop into successful major leaguers. But the Diamondbacks are hopeful they have a future core of hitters that has many of the same attributes as those who populate the lineups of teams still playing this October.

“The guys we’re going out and getting, they (already) get on base and have a good eye, and I think that’s a great start,” Mather said. “Power usually comes later.”