Judging from Shelby Miller’s wardrobe Tuesday, one could assume the Brownwood Lions’ ace pitcher knew exactly where he was headed in Tuesday’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Though his brilliantly bright red T-shirt would say otherwise, Miller was surprised to be taken by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 19th selection of the first round.
“After going that far I was telling people I was going to be an Astro (at pick No. 21) and staying in Texas,” Miller said. “But the Cardinals surprised me, and it was a good surprise. I’m happy they picked me, obviously that’s who wants me, so I’m going to be there for them.
“Missouri is not to far from Texas, not like New York or Washington, so a lot of my family and friends will still be able to go to the games.”
Miller, along with approximately 75 friends, fans, coaches and members of the media, waited almost two hours at the home of JoLynn Landrum — mother of Lions assistant baseball coach Jeremy Smith — for the 6-4, 205-pound right-handed pitcher’s name to be called.
“The wait took forever,” Miller said. “I didn’t know I was going to go that far, but I think I’m going to the right team. St. Louis is a good fit for me and they have really good ball players there. They’re an awesome team and I’m happily going to go there and succeed.”
Talk around the room picked up prior to the selections of Baltimore at No. 5, Cincinnati at No. 8, Detroit at No. 9, Kansas City at No. 12, and Texas at No. 14 — all teams thought to have a serious interest in Miller.
As the wait grew longer, Miller paced through rooms, chewed on a plastic water bottle lid and gave television interviews to help pass the time.
“I was getting anxious and trying not to look at the clock,” said Miller, who credited his father Mitch for helping calm his nerves at times. “My dad settled me down, but I think he was a little bit more nervous than me. I know he’s as excited as I am and it means a lot that my dad was able to experience this also.”
After Miller had once again repositioned himself in the center of the room just shy of 7 p.m., all eyes were focused on the television when his name was finally called. The room burst into applause and offered congratulations before Miller began conducting another round of interviews.
“I always knew he was good, but it’s a dad’s dream to see him get picked in the draft and have the opportunity to play pro ball,” said Mitch Miller who, along with Shelby’s mother Stacy, were flanked to their son’s right side throughout the majority of the waiting process Tuesday. “I’m very proud of him going 19th in the first round. I never thought he would become the man and the player he is.”
Among the strongest emotions for Miller Tuesday were the pride and satisfaction of having his family and friends by his side during such an important event in his life.
“There’s a lot of people here, family and friends, and I’m glad they were here to support me,” Miller said. “It was a big day for me.”
Though a handful of mock drafts had projected Miller to the Texas Rangers with the 14th pick, he holds no ill will that things didn’t work out that way. Miller felt contract issues, which are being handled by his agents Gavin Wright and Peter Vescovo of Select Sports Group out of Houston, likely prevented the pick from occurring.
“The Rangers, I don’t think, were going to pay and that’s exactly why I probably didn’t go there,” Miller said. “But that’s Gavin and those guys’ decision. They were passing on them, but the Rangers would have been an awesome team to go to. A lot of close friends and relatives live up there. But they got Matt Purke, he’s from Texas, so that’s a good thing for them.”
While it’s not set in stone that Miller — a Texas A&M signee — will bypass his opportunity to play college ball, the odds certainly appear in favor of the Brownwood graduate starting his professional career soon.
“The next step is me signing a contract,” Miller said. “I don’t know when I’m going to sign it. I have to talk to the Cardinals and Gavin and those guys about that. I don’t know how fast I will sign it or how long it will take. It’s just another waiting process like this one has been.”
No details about a potential contract were available Tuesday.
Miller is the first high school pitcher drafted in the first round by the Cardinals since Brian Barber in 1991.
“Shelby’s a guy we’ve had our eye on for the last couple years,” said Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals’ vice president of scouting and player development in a draft story published on MLB.com. “He’s a physical guy with three pitches right now and command of most of those pitches. He’s got a ways to go before he makes it to the big leagues, but he does look like a big league pitcher already and has the stuff that should play up here.”
Miller concluded his career at Brownwood High School by earning the Gatorade Texas High School Baseball Player of the Year award, as well as being named the District 2-3A MVP during his senior campaign. Miller also tossed six no-hitters in his high school career, including three straight as a junior and one this past season.
The Lions advanced as far as they ever have in the postseason this year — qualifying for the regional championship round — as Miller went 10-2 on the mound with a 2.00 ERA and 153 strikeouts, 39 walks, 38 hits and 22 runs allowed in 77 innings. At the plate, he batted .430 with five home runs and 37 RBIs.
“It was unbelievable to be able to coach a guy with talent like Shelby’s,” said Lions head baseball coach Scotty Nichols. “It’s probably a once in a lifetime kind of deal. It’s been an awesome ride and we appreciate everything he’s done for us here at Brownwood. We look forward to great things from him in the future and a great career in the Major Leagues. We’re extremely excited for him.”