Caught in 🔟 K pic.twitter.com/obaNxYhAUT
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 3, 2023
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Bryce Miller’s performance for the Seattle Mariners late Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum reverberated all the way back to his Texas home, where he made at least one evening television sportscast in San Antonio on Wednesday night and generated stories on more than a few local websites.
In his major league debut, the 24-year-old New Braunfels High School alumnus took a perfect game against the A’s into the sixth inning. He finished with only one run allowed on two hits in six innings. Perhaps more eye opening, the 24-year-old righthander struck out 10 and walked none.
Yes, he did it against the A’s, the team with the worst record in baseball. But his stuff was so good, it raised eyebrows in the Mariners organization, with manager Scott Servais calling it “an unbelievable performance” in postgame comments aired on Roots Sports.
“Calm, cool as any young player I’ve ever seen, for any young player getting to start his first major league game,” Servais said. “That’s kind of what we saw in spring training. But you never really know when the lights come on, and it was the same guy.
“He got in an awesome rhythm, a groove, with his secondary pitches. Obviously, the fastball’s got all kinds of life on it, and the swing and miss that that can bring from other lineups. You can’t ask for much more. That was some kind of shot in the arm.”
When the game started, it was sort of a curiosity, with A’s rookie Mason Miller going against a kid from Texas named Bryce Miller (no relation). When it reached the sixth inning, both pitchers were still in the game and both had no hitters going.
In the bottom of the sixth, with Bryce on the mound, the A’s came to life with Tony Kemp delivering a one-out single. Eventually, former San Antonio Missions star Esteury Ruiz doubled to drive in Kemp with the game’s first run.
By the top of the seventh, the A’s had a 1-0 lead, with Mason Miller still on the mound, throwing well and retiring the Mariners 1-2-3. For the A’s rookie, that was it. He was done, and the game would be turned over to the A’s bullpen. The Mariners took advantage of the situation, scored twice late and won the game, 2-1.
In the aftermath, historians and data specialists determined that Miller had become the only pitcher in Mariners history to strike out 10 batters in his debut. He joined Stephen Strasburg and Johnny Cueto as the only pitchers in AL/NL history to post 10 plus strikeouts and no walks in his first game.
Bryce Miller was still beaming about it all in his first Mariners’ post-game news conference. “I’ve been dreaming about it since I was little,” he said in remarks published by mlb.com. “I’ll definitely take the results from today.”
Earlier in the afternoon on Tuesday, New Braunfels coach Robert Alford talked about the pride he feels in what his former player has accomplished in simply reaching the big leagues. Alford coached him for three years on varsity through 2017 on a team that also included Baltimore Orioles’ prospect Jordan Westburg.
“It’s just a really, really cool deal,” Alford said of Miller’s promotion to the majors.
Alford said Miller had “a ton of upside” coming out of New Braunfels and elected to play one year in 2018 at Blinn Junior College. From there, he signed with Texas A&M of the Southeastern Conference and continued to progress.
At A&M, he faced a serious challenge when his second season with the Aggies in March of 2020 was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. Undeterred, Miller didn’t flinch. By June, he joined the Brazos Valley Bombers in the Texas Collegiate League and continued to work on his craft.
Alford applauded Miller and all the ball players around the state who pursued their goals during a time of uncertainty.
“Like you said, it was just a lot of people trying to chase their dream,” Alford said. “There was so much fear of the unknown and what was happening with Covid … but (there was a sense that) ‘I still need to get out there and do what I’m supposed to do.’
“I saw it all across the summer, because I’ve got two boys myself, and we were driving all over Texas and watching them play. You see all those kids out there, just trying to have some sense of normalcy. It was pretty impressive.”
Missions president Burl Yarbrough ran the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio in the TCL out of Wolff Stadium in both 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the TCL was the only baseball show in town after the minor league season was canceled.
Three years ago, Miller and the Bombers were the opposition to Yarbrough and the Chanclas. But upon learning Tuesday morning that Miller had made the major leagues, he acknowledged that it “was really cool” to have someone from the 2020 TCL break through to the highest level of baseball.
Recalling what it was like to meet specific health and safety protocols on a nightly basis that summer, Yarbrough reflected on what it all meant to him.
“None of us had ever been through anything like that,” he said. “You take those kids that had their season taken away from them at the college level, and we had lost our (entire) season at Triple-A that summer. We were just looking for something to put together and have an opportunity for kids to play. It’s something that I’m very proud of, that we were able to get all that done.
“Because, man, it would have been a long, long year without baseball.”