By Pete Williams
When Trever Miller hosts his third-annual Mob 5K Run in Treasure Island on Saturday morning (Feb. 5), he’ll pay tribute to a little girl who has inspired his interest in running and perhaps lengthened his career in Major League Baseball.
It’s a far cry from one stormy evening in 2005, when Miller was sitting in his backyard in a rainstorm as some of Tampa’s legendary lighting flashed all around him, a six-pack of beer at his feet. His wife and two of their three kids urged him to come inside.
“What are you doing, Daddy?” is what he remembers hearing that night, not long after he and his wife, Pari, welcomed their daughter Grace, who was born prematurely with an extremely rare chromosomal disorder that left her with two holes in her heart and numerous developmental problems.
Grace will never speak or walk. Now 6, she must be fed through a tube. Another device helps her breathe.
Miller, 37, has spent the last 12 years in the Majors, a left-handed reliever who has pitched for seven teams, including two stints with the Rays in Tampa Bay, where he and his family live during the off-season in Land O’Lakes.
Though he’s reached the pinnacle of professional sports, Miller did not truly begin to push his body until the day after he sat out in the rain drinking beer. That morning, he went for a two-mile run. These days, he runs the Disney Marathon each January – posting a 1:42 in the half marathon last month – and completes numerous 5Ks and 10Ks, including one in March held outside the Jupiter training complex of his current team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Grace “inspired me to get into running; it was a release for me,” Miller says. “I was spiraling out of control for a brief period there with all the difficulties we were dealing with at the hospital. I have two (other) kids and a wonderful marriage to a beautiful woman and I didn’t want to screw that up any more than I was. That’s when I started running, just two miles at first. I wasn’t in shape for it, but I felt better after doing it. That was my first endorphin high from running and getting rid of all that stress and frustration. So I stuck with it, started running three times a week, and the miles started adding up.”
In October, one of the rare instances in recent years when Miller’s team was not in the playoffs, he trained for and completed his first triathlon, the sprint-distance Suncoast Triathlon at Ft. DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg. Six weeks later, he finished the Olympic-distance version of the inaugural Key West Triathlon, swimming the 1,500-meter course in an impressive 20 minutes.
Not bad for a guy whose swim training consisted of navigating a half-mile between the dock of his lakefront home to a neighbor’s dock across the way and back.
“I discovered I had some ability in the water,” Miller said. “I really had a great time with triathlon and am looking forward to pursuing it more avidly when my career is done.”
In 2009, he launched Trever Miller’s Mob 5K Run at Rosselli Park in Treasure Island, convenient to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. All proceeds benefit The Miracle League Baseball Field in St Petersburg, a baseball field designed for handicapped children to play.
The lean, 6-foot-3 left-hander is one of baseball’s best conditioned players, though most players focus on strength training and do little endurance work. Until he took up running, Miller was one of those guys.
“I had been running the required amount, which isn’t much, whatever we had to do,” he says. “Now the stuff I do out there doesn’t do anything for me. I have to get my cardio on top of that. It’s not to say we don’t work hard here, but not for a marathon runner.”
During the season, Miller makes it a point to get at least one five-mile run in per series, typically every three or four days.
“That keeps my base during the season so when the season is over I can train for the marathon,” he says. “There are certain cities I have mapped out that are good to run. I love Central Park. There’s a nice run in San Francisco by the water. There’s the Hank Aaron Trail in Milwaukee around the stadium. That’s very baseball related and I always think, “I’m running the Hank Aaron Trial today, how cool is that?”
Miller not only will put on the Mob 5K on Saturday, assisting with organization and handing out awards, he’ll actually run the event, pushing Grace in a stroller. A crew from ESPN’s E:60 magazine program will be on hand working on a story on the Millers.
Miller can thank Grace and running for prolonging his career. Some left-handed relief specialists like Jesse Orosco and Tony Fossas have pitched well into their 40s.
“I’d say (running) is definitely extending my career,” he says. “Not only do people look at me diff because of my body and appearance but it’s a good leadership tool. The teams see my work ethic, along with my stats and pedigree, and it all helps. Plus, I feel better and recover faster. I’m leaner and am in better physical shape than at any point in my career. I have more confidence on the mound and that breeds more success. And Grace is my inspiration for all of this. She’ll always be my hero.”