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Miller leaves Grasshoppers, joins Hammerheads

The Selma Times-Journal

After being tabbed the Florida Marlins’ top pick four years ago, Selma’s Jai Miller has found himself back where he started in the minor leagues.

This time around, however, Miller is on the cusp of being called up to one of the Fish’s Class AA affiliates.

Miller played his rookie season in a Jupiter Marlin uniform before being shipped to the Carolina League and becoming a part of the A-League Greensboro Grasshoppers.

Two years later, Miller has returned to Jupiter. This time, he’s a Hammerhead.

The Hammerheads are the Marlins’ top Class A affiliates.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Randall Miller, Jai’s grandfather. “We were expecting him to advance more rapidly than he has. But due to his vision problems, he’s been handicapped. But, that’s been corrected and I can’t say how proud I am of him.”

After three years in the bigs, it was determined that Miller had night blindness. His eye malfunction was corrected with Lasiks Eye Surgery in the offseason.

With that aside, Miller is still listed as the best overall athlete on the Marlins’ roster according to baseballamerica.com

So far this season, though, the 21-year-old Selma High grad has been struggling.

He’s batting .209 in 110 plate appearances.

He has a slugging percentage of .314 and an on-base percentage of .284.

Miller has recorded 23 hits and eight doubles, but has struck out 40 times.

“I talked to him earlier in the week and he said he’s hitting the ball solid, it’s just right at someone,” said Randall.

“I’ve told him to keep hitting it and sooner or later it’s got to get through.”

Wednesday morning, Miller and the Hammerheads proved two runs better than their opponents from Clearwater.

Jupiter posted a 2-0 win.

Miller made an appearance in the seventh, pinch-running for rightfielder Jeremy Hermidia and then played the rest of the game in centerfield.

“When he signed with the Marlins as a first-round pick, “said Randall, “he had to play for them for five years to be able to keep his signing bonus.

“But, they have agreed to pay for his college and have put his college tuition in escrow.”

If Miller left the organization prior to the five-year window closing, then he’d have to pay his signing bonus back to the Marlins organization.

Miller, who had initially planned to go into engineering, will have five years of eligibility in any NCAA sport, except baseball if he decides to return to college after the conclusion of the 2007 season.

“Several times, he’s wanted to go into college, but didn’t want to lose any of his eligibility,” said Randall.

Miller’s grandfather is Jai’s biggest supporter.

Randall, who admittedly hasn’t been to see his grandson play this season, has seen him in a professional uniform.

“I haven’t been to any games this year because everyone has been in south Florida,” said Randall.

“But, I’ve been to see him play in Columbus, Rome, Charleston and on into North Carolina.”

If Jai gets called up to the Carolina Mudcats, Florida’s AA affiliate, then he will be playing teams like the Montgomery Biscuits, Birmingham Barons, the Mobile BayBears, the Huntsville Stars and the Mississippi Braves.