By Trey McCurry.
Coming into the 2010 season, Clemson shortstop Brad Miller was coming off a successful freshman campaign as the Tigers starting shortstop and then being named to Team USA. Luckily for Clemson and head coach Jack Leggett, Miller avoided the dreaded “sophomore slump” and was a key player on the Tigers 2010 College World Series team.
Starting in all 66 games as the everyday shortstop in 2009, Miller hit .273 while leading the team in walks (53 – also a Clemson freshman record) and stolen bases (16). As a sophomore, Miller led the Tigers at the plate with a .357 average while increasing his power numbers across the board but still maintaining a good eye at the plate with 50 walks. Miller’s numbers in 2010 included 19 doubles (up from six in 2009), four triples (up from one), eight home runs (up from three) while also scoring 71 runs (up from 49) with 49 RBI (up from 36).
TheClemsonInsider recently sat down with Miller to look back on the 2010 season, talk about a return engagement with Team USA, and to look at what lies ahead for both him and the Tigers in 2011.
When looking back on 2010, Miller really stressed the togetherness and cohesion of the team. “We had a great run last season and really put things together as we got into the postseason. I felt like we really came together as a team and found ways to win games whether they required a great pitching performance or going out and winning a slugfest. To me, that just speaks volumes about the character of our team and how committed we were to going to Omaha.”
When looking back on the trip to Omaha, Miller really had a hard time just putting the experience into words. “You really cannot describe just how special being in Omaha really is. We hear about Omaha and Rosenblatt all year long, but I don’t think we actually got the real importance of it until we were actually there. I think that experience gives us returning players even more motivation to get back to Omaha and open up the new TD Ameritrade Park to show the new players how special it really is and why we wear the word Omaha on our hats everyday.”
Another thing that really stuck with the now junior was the atmosphere at Rosenblatt Stadium.
“That atmosphere as just unreal. The fans really make the whole experience because they get into the games and just the whole week in general. The stadium is always packed and you just get that historic feel to it when you walk on the field while hearing (and this year seeing) all about the CWS legends that played on that very field.”
After only a couple days break, Miller was back on the field as he had a second stint as a member of Team USA. He continued his hot hitting streak as he led the team in batting average, as he hit .441 in 14 games while helping to lead the team to a silver-medal performance at the FISU World University Baseball Championships.
Looking back on his summer, Miller had nothing but positive memories. “I had a great experience this summer and was honored to play for Team USA again. The coaches were great and it was pretty cool to see how close our team became over the course of the whole summer. Another cool thing is that we were actually able to play the last collegiate game in Rosenblatt Stadium against Japan before traveling overseas. We had some battles on the field and lost a tough extra-inning game to Cuba in the World Championships but we left it all out on the field. Being able to play for Team USA was very special to me and I couldn’t have asked for a better summer.”
With players now several days into “Fall Ball,” Miller is again back on the field and working towards yet another successful campaign for the Tigers. “Fall practice is going pretty well so far. It’s been fun getting to know Coach LeCroy and to see the new guys on the team. Coach LeCroy is a great guy and he’s just fun to be around out at the field, while working with the new guys is giving us a feel for how the team is going to come together this season. It’s always a different mix from year-to-year so fall practice gives us a little preview of our team.”
As far as the 2011 season, Miller expects this year to be nothing different than every other year for Clemson baseball. “The expectations are always high with the tradition we have at Clemson. It’s the reason we all wanted to be a part of this program and it is what drives us every day of every season. I feel like we have a very veteran team this season with a lot of players who will step up and make a big impact for us. We all have our sights on winning a national championship and nothing less, so that will continue to be the goal for our team and this program. I am excited for the spring and all the challenges it will bring for our team.”
As Miller mentioned, with so many key players returning for the Tigers, it is hard not to be excited, not only for the 2011 season, but for many seasons to come.