Unable to be reached after signing his first professional baseball contract just after Christmas, Bayfield High School alumnus and current Ignacio High School assistant/pitching coach Clay Miller chatted with the Times Wednesday about the achievement. Miller will play for the Tucson Saguaros in Arizona.
Mum's still-and might forever be-the word, however, on his stick-like nickname. And how it stuck:
Pine River Times: What's this past week been like as it's really had time to set in that you're now a PRO ballplayer for real?
Clay Miller: It hasn't set in at all. I don't think it will until I'm on the field playing again.
PRT: How did you hear about the Pecos League tryout in the first place?
CM: I was talking to a scout and he said to go look online for some tryouts. So I got online and found this three-day tryout in Tucson. I figured the worst thing would be that I don't make the team, but I get to go to Arizona for three days and see all my buddies.
PRT: And how do you think you did at it, having rehabbed your arm for such a long time?
CM: After rehabbing and being out of baseball for nearly two years I figured there was nothing to lose.
PRT: Being as though Tucson is the reigning champs of the Pecos League, how excited were you to know that such an organization had you in its sights?
CM: At the time, I really had no idea that the team was the defending champions. This makes it really exciting knowing that I could be playing for a championship!
PRT: And having played at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, was there any hesitation about recommitting to the Grand Canyon State?
CM: Returning to Arizona to play made me a little hesitant, but I wasn't turning down an offer to continue my baseball dreams.
PRT: How, if at all, did your time as an IHS assistant coach help you on your journey?
CM: Coaching changed the way I look at the game; it gave me a new perspective on everything. I no longer just get on the mound and throw as hard as I can. I now see the little things involved with every pitch and situation. Fortunately I will still be coaching in Ignacio this spring.
PRT: When do you ship out?
CM: Spring Training for the Pecos League starts early May.
PRT: What sort of expectations do you have for yourself now?
CM: I want to play as long as possible. I want to be at the next level, and the next...and the next, until I'm where I want to be: At the top.
PRT: Finally, how has the game/sport changed for Clay Miller? Have you had moments where the years have just flashed before your eyes and you've reflected on playing as a little "Twig" all the way up to the present?
CM: The game has changed completely for me. I sat here last year thinking my dreams were gone and I had no chances left. It seems like yesterday that I was throwing a ball to Darren Hoselton in the State Playoffs. Time really does fly. And for some crazy reason someone had given me another shot at my dream; nothing can get in the way of me going after it now.
PRT: Explain the nickname "Twig" once and for all.
CM: "TWIG" (laughing.) The nickname that never leaves. And the story that never gets revealed.
JP/PRT: Do you have any thank-yous you'd like to make known?
CM: Obviously I have to thank my parents (Robert and Mitzi). Even when things were looking down they kicked me in the butt every day and said, "You're gonna play!" Every day my mom nagged me about getting something figured out and her persistence definitely paid off. I also have to thank all my close friends and family for supporting me through the last few years, for sure.
SCHEDULE BEING FINALIZED: Viewed online at www.saguarosbaseball.com Wednesday, Tucson's 2017 season-opener currently appears to be set for 7 p.m., May 25, at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium versus the White Sands Pupfish of Alamagordo, N.M.
CORRECTION: In the initial report of Miller's signing in the Dec. 30 Times, it was mentioned the Pecos League had 10 teams when it in fact is slated to have 12 (all teams were actually named in the article, however) in 2017.