Happy to at last be back in the game, Bayfield High School graduate Clay Miller may not be leaving it now for quite a long time after it was announced last weekend he'd been named the independent minor Pecos League's Pacific Division Pitcher-of-the-Year.
"When I found out," he said, "I was quite honored and felt blessed that I had the opportunity to have a second chance at my baseball career."
During his first professional season, Miller compiled an outstanding 8-0 win-loss record-bettering teammate Eric Morell's 7-0 mark-in 10 games (all starts) for the Tucson Saguaros of Arizona.
After winning the Pacific League in 2016, the team finished 2017 with 46-14 regular-season figures.
Miller's also gone 7-for-27 - a .259 average - batting with a double, RBI and three runs.
In 68.1 innings, the left-hander posted a 3.02 earned-run average with a 66:21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He gave up 69 hits and was charged with 31 runs (23 earned) against.
On the winning end of a 15-4 score on Aug. 3, Miller was the only Saguaro pitcher to beat eventual champions High Desert (Adelanto, Calif.) in the playoffs. Besides fanning six Yardbirds and allowing two runs in 6.1 innings worked, he also went 1-for-4 batting with a run and two knocked in.
"The award really shows how well my team played behind me," said Miller. "And most of the credit should go to my catcher, Sal Palumbo. He had my back all year long and was the reason for the success."
Third place in the Pacific at the close of regular-season play, the 'Birds would later take the best-of-three versus Tucson and then sweep Mountain Division runner-up Roswell, N.M., in the deciding three-game series.
Saguaro second baseman Fernando Garza earned the Pacific Division's Hitter-of-the-Year, while High Desert pitcher Cody Culp received Postseason Player-of-the-Year after his 15-strikeout, zero-walk effort in seven innings of three-hit ball against the Invaders in the finals' opener.
Roswell outfielder Kaohu Gaspar was named Mountain Hitter-of-the-Year, while Pitcher-of-the-Year went to Alpine, Texas, Cowboy righty Ely Gallego (7-1, 4.92; 75 IP, 95 H, 49 R, 41 ER, 56 K, 18 BB).