By Landon Kafka
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
Minor league baseball can be a grind, especially during the dog days of summer.
For many minor leaguers, rookie and Single A baseball is their first taste of living out of their suitcase, traveling from town to town, calling `home’ an unfamiliar place with a host family in the town of the team they are assigned to.
However, this isn’t the case for Western Oregon University graduate Blake Miller.
Miller was drafted by the San Francisco Giants organization in the 25th round of the first-year player draft last year and found himself in Scottsdale, Ariz. playing rookie ball for the AZL Giants.
“When I was drafted by the Giants, I knew there was a good chance I’d be back in town, but I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” Miller said. “The weather is a lot nicer than Arizona.”
Miller, unlike many of his teammates, is intimately familiar with his current confines at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer – he was born and raised in Salem.
“Growing up, my family had season tickets so we were out here all the time. It’s great to be back here playing on this field,” Miller said.
Usually there is a lot of pressure on a player headed back home to continue his career – especially so early – but for Miller, landing back in the area has had the opposite effect.
“I thought there might be more pressure, but so far it has been great,” Miller said. “I’ve had a lot of friends and family come out to support me, my parents get to see me play often and it’s really nice to have all the support.”
His statistics during his brief stint with the Volcanoes are certainly an indication of his comfort level. Going into Friday night’s game, Miller was on a six-game hitting streak, and coming off a 3-for-4 game Aug. 4, which featured his first home run for the Volcanoes.
“There is nothing like hitting a homer with a wood bat. I knew it right away and it felt awesome to get that first one out of the way,” Miller said. “My parents were there too so it was great they were able to see that.”
On Friday night, Miller went 0 for 3 with a walk, ending his hitting streak, but rebounded on Sunday with a 2-for-4 performance including a two-run home run against the Everett Aquasox.
In his nine games with the Volcanoes, Miller is batting .314 with a solid .911 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The Volcanoes have won seven of their last eight games, putting them on top in the Northwest League West Division standings.
Miller will continue his season with the Volcanoes, who have two home stands left in the regular season, and playoff baseball could be on the docket if the team continues its winning ways. After the season, Miller will head to a fall instructional league back in Scottsdale at the end of September and then take some time off before the Giants’ spring training next April.