Serra Catholic’s Miller zipping off to Akron
As the hustle and bustle of a new school day unfolded around him, Chris Miller relished his rare chance to avoid such excitement.
Sitting just outside the Serra Catholic High School gymnasium before classes commenced early Wednesday morning, the senior catcher ended his college recruiting process by signing a national letter of intent to continue his baseball career at the University of Akron next fall.
After making a verbal commitment to Zips coach Pat Bangtson’s Division I program in July, there wasn’t much drama involved as Miller made his college choice official surrounded by his family, Eagles coach Brian Dzurenda and Serra athletic director Bill Cleary.
“It feels great to be done with everything,” Miller said. “I get to kick back and relax and enjoy my senior year now.”
The same can be said for the coaching staff at Akron.
With the signing of Miller, who helped lead Serra to a pair of WPIAL Class A championships and consecutive PIAA title-game appearances, the Zips landed what Bangtson considers to be a very important piece in his 2010 recruiting puzzle.
“We needed to target a front-line catcher this year with this class because we’re going to lose a couple catchers here in the upcoming years,” the ninth-year Akron coach said. “To get a guy like Chris, with his character on and off the field, we’re extremely excited.”
Miller chose Akron over offers from Penn State, Seton Hill, Eastern Kentucky and South Carolina Upstate.
For Miller, Akron brought together the perfect academic experience, relatively close to home, with a highly competitive program where the 6-foot-4 backstop will have the best opportunity to hone his skills.
Akron is one of only three schools in the country that offers an emergency management major.
“That was pretty much the main reason,” Miller said of his choice to continue his education in Akron’s criminal justice program. “Nobody else could have given that to me.”
And few recruits on Akron’s radar last spring could provide the skill set that Miller will bring to the next level.
As a three-year starter, Miller has helped lead Serra to a 70-8 record. In his first two seasons with the Eagles, Miller hit .450 or better.
Last spring, Miller compiled a .577 batting average and had 34 RBIs, five home runs, a .949 slugging percentage and scored 36 runs. Defensively, Miller committed just two errors behind the plate last season, threw out 40 percent of would-be base stealers and allowed two passed balls.
“I think he has the opportunity to be a very solid receiver as a catcher,” Bangtson said. “He’s obviously a big target and an intimidating presence back there. The other thing, to get the bonus, as far as a catcher that I think is going to be able to hit, and hit with power. I think Chris is the total package as far as that goes.”
Miller will have an opportunity to compete for an every day starting position behind the plate for Akron as a freshman.
“He’s going to be a catcher, but Chris is a baseball player,” Dzurenda said. “He can play any of the nine positions on the baseball field and that’s what’s made him different from a lot of kids that have played for us.
“He’s one of those kids if you say, ‘Hey Chris, run through the wall and we’ll win,’ he’ll do it for you,” the Eagles coach added. “He loves the game. He’s passionate about it and that’s what I love about Chris so much.”
It is what Major League scouts have come to admire about Miller as well.
“He’s got legitimate Major League speed for a catcher,” Dzurenda said. “He might get drafted. There’s a good chance. I think it’s a possibility that it may happen.”
Over the past four summers, Miller has attended the Ed Santa baseball showcase in Morgantown, W.Va. After working out mostly for college coaches the past three years, Miller worked out primarily for Major League scouts last summer.
“If I got drafted, that would be absolutely great,” Miller said. “If I don’t go high, then of course I’m going to go to college and get my education.”