By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Bryce Miller, who survived the pandemic summer of 2020 pitching in front of sparse crowds with the Brazos Valley Bombers, is expected to make his major league debut tonight.
The Seattle Mariners’ No. 2 prospect is being recalled from Double-A Arkansas and will start in Tuesday’s series opener against the Oakland A’s, according to a story by Daniel Kramer published Monday on mlb.com.
It’s a story that I’m following closely, because it’s such a testament to the resilience of youth.
Here’s what I know about Miller and his journey to The Show:
The righthander pitched for New Braunfels High School, for Blinn College and for parts of three seasons at Texas A&M before he was drafted by the Mariners in 2021 on the fourth round.
During his time at A&M, the careers of young ball players everywhere were threatened by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and Miller was no different.
College seasons in the spring of 2020 ended in March when the impact of the national health crisis started to be felt. Eventually, most sporting events around the nation went on pause.
Even though the major leagues would eventually play a shortened season in 2020, minor league pro baseball scrapped its season entirely, giving rise to independent leagues willing to continue to operate.
Locally, Miller joined some of the other top players in the developmental phase of their careers gravitating to the Texas Collegiate League.
The Flying Chanclas de San Antonio, run by the administration of the San Antonio Missions, played in the TCL out of Wolff Stadium.
It was at Wolff in July of 2020 when my friend and colleague Joe Alexander took some pictures of Miller, a 2017 New Braunfels graduate, pitching for the Bombers.
I’ll always remember that summer as one of great uncertainty.
Fearful of being around anyone outside of my immediate family, I didn’t attend the TCL games at Wolff, but I did watch games from my home on a livestream, talked periodically on the phone with Flying Chanclas manager John McLaren and wrote stories for The JB Replay from my kitchen table.
That’s why I’ll be really happy to see what happens when Miller takes the ball for the Mariners tonight in the Oakland Coliseum.
Three years ago, the lanky righty likely had some thoughts of uncertainty himself, especially when his college season at Texas A&M was shuttered.
He probably wondered where it was all going as he joined the Brazos Valley club, rode the bus and played in front of sparse crowds in the stifling heat of Texas, all to keep his dream alive.
Tonight, I’ll be on campus at UTSA watching the Roadrunners play the Sam Houston State Bearkats. But I’ll keep an eye on the proceedings in Oakland, eager to see how Miller fares in his first start in the majors.
One of the boys of the pandemic summer has made it to the big leagues, and knowing where we all were three years ago, that’s a reason for everyone to toast the occasion.