Making plans for the future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

The following is an excerpt from a conversation between Florida Marlins prospect Jai Miller and Times-Journal sports editor George L. Jones.

George L. Jones: What&8217;s the biggest difference you&8217;ve seen since you&8217;ve been in camp?

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Jai Miller: When you&8217;re coming up in the minor leagues, you have to develop your own routine. The minor leagues is really a dress rehearsal for the big leagues. When you get there, it&8217;s time to perform.

GLJ: Is there a big difference in major league talent and minor league talent?

JM: In the big leagues pretty much everybody can hit with a little power. Guys that can throw 95, we see that on a daily basis.

GLJ: But guys who can throw hard and hit with power are a dime a dozen, right?

JM: Nowadays, everybody throws in the low to mid-90s. Everybody has ability. It&8217;s just what you do with it. When it&8217;s time, can you execute when you want to execute? And when you&8217;re struggling, how well can you get through it? That&8217;s what separates major league guys from minor league guys.

GLJ: You know a thing or two about struggling, don&8217;t you.

JM: Oh yeah. Last year before we made that trip to Montgomery, I want to say I hit like .190 in April. But that trip to Montgomery was big for me. I knew I couldn&8217;t come home and not perform.

GLJ: What&8217;s your goal for this spring?

JM: Goal for this spring … Hmm … Just to have a good at-bat every time I step into the batter&8217;s box. Just worry about the things I can control. I can control playing hard, backing up bases and running hard. The manager and front office people pay attention to everything you do.

GLJ: It wouldn&8217;t be the worst thing in the world if you got sent back down, would it?

JM: Nah. I&8217;ll just work hard trying to make it back up. I figure it like this &8212; I don&8217;t have to make it to the major leagues with the Marlins. There are trades made all the time. When I get there, I don&8217;t care who it&8217;s with. Just to give you an example, if you&8217;re a center fielder with a team that has Torii Hunter, what are you going to do?

GLJ: Yeah, you&8217;d pretty much be stuck.

JM: Exactly. The best you can do is hope for a trade and try to make it with someone else.

GLJ: I like that you said &8220;when,&8221; not &8220;if.&8221; You strike me as a confident guy.

JM: You have to focus on the positive. No one plans to be a career minor leaguer. That&8217;s not the goal of anyone.

GLJ: What&8217;s your take on the problem of black players in baseball?

JM: It&8217;s bad, and it&8217;s kind of sad, really, when you consider all the things players before us went through. I look at a lot of teams, and there&8217;s not a whole lot of athleticism. I want to say something like 7 percent of big league rosters are black. I know basketball and football are the sports of choice, but if people give it a chance, it&8217;s a great opportunity.

GLJ: It kills me because I see so many great athletes that aren&8217;t tall enough to make it to the NBA or aren&8217;t big enough to play in the NFL. They could be a leadoff hitter or shortstop for some team and at least get a free college education out of it.

JM: Exactly. Just to give you an example, I was going to go to Stanford to play basketball and football. And you&8217;re talking about one of the best educations in the world.

GLJ: I can understand that. But why that particular school?

JM: I know it sounds crazy going across the country, but there really weren&8217;t a lot of other schools that were letting guys play football and basketball. Alabama hadn&8217;t done it, I don&8217;t think ever. Auburn had guys that played football and baseball, but that&8217;s it. I knew there were two other guys going to Stanford at the same time that were doing it. Actually, I was kind of hoping I wouldn&8217;t get accepted.

GLJ: How&8217;s that?

JM: It would have made the decision to go pro a lot easier. And let me tell you, that admissions process is hard.

GLJ: Who&8217;s the best example of a big leaguer you&8217;ve seen since you&8217;ve been here?

JM: Just as far as going about their business every day? (Starting shortstop) Hanley Ramirez. You look at him, and he doesn&8217;t have a care in the world. But when he&8217;s on the field, he performs. He may not stretch a single part of his body, but when it&8217;s 7:05, and it&8217;s time to play, he handles his business.

GLJ: One more question, man. What&8217;s the biggest lesson you&8217;ve learned?

JM: You have to be humble. You think you&8217;ve got it figured out, and then you realize you don&8217;t at all. You could go 4-for-4 one night with two home runs, two doubles, nine RBIs. The next night, you&8217;ll go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. You&8217;ve got to respect the game.

GLJ: Sounds like the voice of experience.

JM: No, I haven&8217;t quite had a night that good. But there have been times when I thought I had it figured out. The thing you learn is this game will humble you. Quickly.