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Cardinals’ Trever Miller Runs to Honor Daughter

10/14/2009 - 11:47

miller.jpgBy Drew Langenberg
Whether it’s just a few hours before game time or waiting at the start line of a marathon, Trever Miller, the left-handed relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, has no trouble focusing on what he says is most important—and it’s not the game or the race. It’s enjoying life, his children and his youngest daughter, Grace. He runs to honor her. He runs to escape the stress of a condition he cannot cure.

Grace was born with two holes in her heart and a genetic disorder so rare it doesn’t have a name. Doctors initially gave her less than one year to live. Miller says the diagnosis made him feel helpless and angry. It brought him to a turning point and brought him to running. “The stress kept building up and up, and I would explode. Just feel all that anger inside and I knew it wasn’t healthy,” he said. “Before it got too bad and I punched a wall, broke my hand and ruined my career, I decided to go out and just pound some pavement. Started out with a little 2-mile run and I felt better.”

One mile turned into two, two into three, and soon Miller ran his first 5K, then 10K and, eventually, his first marathon at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Miller is now getting ready for his third Disney World Marathon, but he’s not taking a competitive approach. Unlike in his baseball career, Miller doesn’t train with a team or partner, even on the longest runs of his training schedule. “It’s my time to just get out there and let my mind wander, maybe solve a problem, maybe let something go or just have a great run and beat my old time.” There is, however, one exception to that rule, according to Miller’s wife, Pari, who says, “He’s inspired the whole family to run.” The whole gang, mom, dad, and all three children participate in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day in Clear-water, Florida each year. Pari says this is only the beginning—they’re working to inspire their extended family to run, as well. She draws a vivid picture of a large family crowd in matching “goofy” T-shirts, turkey trotting together with Trever pushing Grace in her jogger. So far, a couple of family members have taken the bait.

During baseball season, running has to take a back seat. Miller says he runs once during each series and no more than seven miles. Beyond that, he could risk an injury that might jeopardize his career. Baseball has a lot to do with his choice of marathons, as well. Disney is one of few marathons far enough away from the end of the season to get in the miles he needs and it’s located close enough to home so Grace can come. He says traveling with her oxygen tanks and bulky medical equipment is difficult, and above all, he doesn’t want her to be uncomfortable. When they’re at home, Miller pushes Grace in her jogger when he trains. She is a quiet but comforting partner for him. “She gets a little upset when we’re not moving then when we start moving she relaxes, looks around and probably within the first 2 miles, she’s out,” he says.

Miller wanted to push her during the Disney Marathon this year but race officials declined his request. But Miller will still have her close to his heart with a shirt that reads “26 for Grace, .2 for me.” He still hasn’t given up on pushing her through a full marathon, saying, “We’ll eventually find a race where I can push her. If not, I’ll start up my own race.” In fact, he already has one named for him, according to his wife, the Trever Miller Mob 5K Run and 1 Mile Fun Walk that benefits the Kiwani Gulf Beaches Miracle League in Florida. The Miracle League gives children with disabilities an opportunity to play baseball.

In the end, for Miller, it all goes back to children, his children and his daughter, Grace. “I couldn’t be more proud of her. She’s probably already touched more lives, overcome more physical ailments in her life than people who are 90 years old.”

Miller ends with a few words of advice for anyone just beginning to take up running, and frankly, it’s something we should all keep in mind. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to hurt. But life does. Life is painful.”

Trever Miller started his professional baseball career in 1991 with the Bristol Tigers. Since then he has played for nearly a dozen major league teams including the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Miller joined the Cardinals at the beginning of the 2009 season after a year with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

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