9 to 5, baseball style

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

JUPITER, Fla. &8212; It&8217;s Saturday afternoon. Jai Miller has just finished his work for the day and picks up after his cell phone rings.

He has just been informed the sports editor for the Times-Journal will be front and center at a couple of the Florida Marlins&8217; home games next week.

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He&8217;s joking, right? Not really, no.

It might be safe to say playing baseball is what keeps baseball players sane. They are creatures of habit, and Miller is no exception. His day at the ball park begins about 8 a.m. From then until about 4 p.m., he completes an uninterrupted (hopefully) cycle of going to the training room, eating, playing cards, stretching, batting practice, eating (again), playing cards (yes, that again, too), getting dressed and ready, playing a game and then winding down to go home.

Rough life, right? Actually, playing 140 minor league games or 162 major league games in six months makes habits and energy conservation necessary.

Players come to depend on certain things and certain people around them. Say, for instance, clubhouse guys or members of the ball park staff.

Miller sits in a booth at a half-empty Outback Steakhouse a few miles from the major league club&8217;s team hotel sipping water and eating his appetizer of cheese fries. This is about as much socializing as he usually does.

It looks like a lack of focus won&8217;t hold Miller back from reaching the highest level of baseball.