Winner At Home
Cardinals’ lefthander, a Knight of Columbus, has challenges on and off the field
By Brian Caulfield
As he begins his 12th season as a major league pitcher, Trever Miller is familiar with baseball’s performance measurements: earned run average, strikeout-walk ratio, winning percentage, saves and a dozen other metrics. A lanky lefty reliever with the St. Louis Cardinals, who specializes in retiring left-handed batters in late innings, he even holds a major league record for consecutive mound appearances without a win or loss decision. Having pitched for five teams, the 37-year-old hurler’s lifetime record is a respectable 18-16.
But as a father of a child who was born with two holes in her heart and a genetic disorder so rare that it doesn’t have a name, Miller measures success in life in more basic ways these days – the next breath, a winning smile, a new movement from his daughter Grace. She was not supposed to leave the hospital after birth yet turns a miraculous 7 years old in June.
“Faith goes with the territory,” Miller said last month during the Cardinals’ spring training in Florida. “Grace is my hero and my inspiration. She has overcome more physical tests than I ever have in a lifetime of baseball.”
Miller is a member of the Knights of Columbus’ Our Lady of the Rosary Council 8104 in Land o’ Lakes, Florida. He was brought into the fraternal Order by his father, Terry Miller, who serves as financial secretary for the same council. Father and son are both Fourth Degree Knights in Fr. Malachy Hugh Maguire Assembly 2741.
“I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school” in Louisville, Kentucky, said the younger Miller. He attends Mass each Sunday and when Mass is offered in the Cardinals’ clubhouse through an arrangement with the group Catholic Athletes for Christ.
One of Kentucky’s all-time great baseball stars at Trinity High School, Miller was drafted by the Detroit Tigers after graduating. He spent a few years in the minors before breaking into the big leagues in 1996.
A year earlier, he married Pari, his wife of 16 years, and they have three children: Tyler, 14, who is a member of the Columbian Squires; McKenzie, 13, and Grace. After his youngest child was born, he and his wife had a choice to make about her treatment. The couple opted for life and hope by approving surgery to close the holes in her tiny heart.
Today, she cannot walk or talk, and a simple cold can mean a trip to the emergency room to prevent fluid from filling her lungs. Still, Grace attends school as often as she can and receives regular therapy.
“She’s a battler, she’s tough,” said Terry Miller, her grandfather. “She’s the only child with her condition who has lived beyond one year, so nothing would surprise me, even if she started talking one day. I’m sure she’d have a lot to tell us.”
Trever Miller tells of dark days a few years ago when he was angry with everyone, including God, over his daughter’s condition.
“We were stunned, we didn’t understand,” he recalled. “We had to stress acceptance, and as a father I wanted to fix her situation and I couldn’t. It was a helpless feeling.”
As a man who makes his living by his physical abilities, acceptance has been difficult. “Dads are looked to as Mr. Fix It, but no matter what I couldn’t fix this. It was tough that I couldn’t control this.”
He now pours his frustration into running, completing two 26.2-mile marathons and wearing a t-shirt that reads: “26 for Grace, .2 for me.”
“I think our faith in God and his running was his saving,” his wife said.
Miller agrees. “One thing all this has done is to keep our family praying,” he said. “Because of this, Grace has so many other people praying for her too.”
Trever Miller is hoping for a stellar year with the Cardinals, but he knows that his biggest wins will be at home with his family.
Brian Caulfield is editor of Fathers for Good.