Jay Miller is hoping the opportunity to test his baseball talents against older players will make him an even better ball player.
The 16-year-old is already one of the top prospects emerging from Corner Brook’s minor baseball ranks.
This week he is in Oshawa playing in the Ray Carter Cup, a national baseball tournament for 15U players. Miller is one of two overage players the team is permitted to have on its roster.
He headed to the tournament on the heels of returning from another national tournament, the BIGS Seeds Baseball Canada Cup Championships tournament for 17U players.
Despite being a rookie, Miller started in all six games for Team Newfoundland and Labrador, including two starts and one relief appearance as a pitcher and four starts at third base.
He said the higher level of competition forced him to be sharper.
“You had to hit your spots more pitching," he said, "because if you just threw it down the middle, they’re going to hit you."
While the team never won a game, Miller held his own at the plate, getting five hits and a couple of walks in his 14 plate appearances for a .417 average.
While his offensive stats were better, pitching is still what Miller loves most about the game. His repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup and he’s hoping to figure out how to work a cutter into the mix eventually.
“I’ve always pitched since younger and I have always liked it,” he said. “It’s my favorite position.”
He’s fortunate to have been able to learn some pitching tips from Corner Brook veteran Frank Humber, who represented Canada in baseball at the 1988 Olympic games and is a former pitching prospect of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After returning from Regina last week, Miller had just one day home before travelling to St. John’s for a pre-tournament camp with the 15U team before they jetted off to Oshawa this week.
“I’m hoping to do some better pitching and a bit better fielding and just keep my bat going,” he said of his goals for the Ray Carter Cup experience that awaited him.
Miller will be joined in Oshawa by fellow Corner Brook players Andrew Payne and Thomas Hancock.
Miller, who threw four and 1/3 innings at the Canada Cup event, wasn’t the only western Newfoundlander to play in the tournament in Saskatchewan. Ryan Park of Irishtown-Summerside was also a member of the team’s pitching staff in his last year of eligibility for 17U baseball.
He, too, said experiences like this have helped make him a stronger player.
“I definitely think I was throwing the ball harder up there than I was at home,” said Park, who threw five and 2/3 innings in two appearances.
“The adrenaline pumping while I was warming up just got to me and I took it to the mound.”
Miller and Park will team up once again with the Corner Brook Barons midget team as they travel to Prince Edward Island for the Atlantic championship in September.