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Home cooking

Miller heating up now that he’s close to family

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

It’s been quite a homecoming for Jai Miller.

The Selma native playing for the Carolina Mudcats, the AA affiliate of the Florida Marlins, finished up a five-game series with the Biscuits Wednesday night.

It seems the timing couldn’t have been any better to turn around a rough spot in the center fielder’s season.

“I hope so,” said Miller, who came into the weekend with a .199 batting average. “I got off to a good start for the season. I had a good April, but May was kind of tough. Hopefully, I’ll have a good June and get back to having a good season.”

Miller has been one of the hottest hitters for either team during the series. He was 8-for-14 entering Wednesday and had driven in a run in each of the first four games. He hit his sixth home run of the season Tuesday, a solo shot in the ninth that brought the Mudcats within one run of the Biscuits in a 3-2 loss.

Many players feel a lot of pressure performing in front of friends and family.

Miller, a 2003 graduate of Selma High, said the familiar faces in the crowd allowed him to relax.

“It was actually a little bit easier with them there. If I didn’t play well, a lot of my friends would let me hear it,” Miller joked.

Miller’s trip to Alabama has gone much differently than his first one back here as a player. He went hitless in his first four games against the Birmingham Barons, but finished the month of April with a .302 average.

“The first time we saw him in Birmingham, he was kind of nervous,” said Darrel Davis, Miller’s father. “He didn’t do as well as he wanted to do. But he’s putting on a show this time. Every time he comes into the dugout from the outfield, someone different is speaking to him. His high school baseball and basketball coaches even went to see him play.

“He’s got a lot of fan support over there.”

Davis insists, however, that conversations between him and Jai don’t focus on baseball.

“A lot of times when we talk, we talk about other stuff,” Davis said. “We touch on baseball every now and then.”

With injuries and the youth on the big club’s roster, Miller has recently seen teammates called up to the majors.

Somewhere in his mind has to be the fact that he is a hamstring pull or a big slump away from being a major leaguer.

“I know I’m very close any time anything like that happens,” he said. “I try to concentrate on the things I can control and play as well as I can. So if that chance comes, I want to be ready.”