Miller returns to Jackets stronger, takes over ace role

Coming into Waynesburg University two years ago, Mason Miller was 6 feet and 5 inches tall, weighing around 150 pounds. Now, he has gained 25 pounds and is the ace of the baseball team’s pitching staff.

Not only is Miller Waynesburg’s No. 1 starter, he leads the entire Presidents’ Athletic Conference with 60 strikeouts and a 1.91 ERA.

“We always knew that he could play the game of baseball, the coaching staff and I watched him in a number of different situations,” head coach Mike Humiston said. “His success in high school and travel ball prior to coming to Waynesburg University [showed us that he] comes from a good program, Bethel Park, they’re successful and so we knew I think that we had somebody special.”

Coming to Waynesburg from Bethel Park High School wasn’t strictly a baseball decision for Miller. He said he chose Waynesburg because of academics and was fortunate enough to receive the Bonner Scholarship, which allow him to “pay his own way for school.”

“Baseball was kind of an afterthought,” Miller said. “I talked to coach Humiston before and I knew I would have a spot on the team if I did come here, but baseball was not my deciding factor for where I went to school.”

As a freshman, Miller said he struggled finding his role on the team. He was used to being a starting pitcher in high school, but since there were a lot of upperclassmen in the rotation, he found himself coming out the bullpen.

“I had to adjust to and have a different mindset,” Miller said.

Then last year, in early April, Miller was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which came as a shock to him and Humiston. Miller felt he had let the team down pitching wise because of this.

“It was kind of shocking I guess, I mean I never would have thought that it would have come to that,” Miller said. “Realistically looking back maybe I should have, but I don’t know it is scary stuff to be honest with you.”

Humiston was disheartened by the diagnosis and did research on his own to find out just how bad it was. Fortunately for Miller, he started a diet and received proper medication to stay healthy and put on weight.

“That to me tells me that he handles adversity as well as anybody does,” Humiston said. “Some people would have said ‘hey I got to quit what I am doing, playing baseball or doing whatever because I have to take care of myself.’ Well he has been able to do both and it’s not easy… A diet for him is different than a diet for me and you.”

Miller now had to focus on his health ahead of baseball. His goal was to get back to being able to do every day activities such as going to class, eating and hanging out with his friends.

“It’s just more stuff to think about, so it just added a burden last year, but as far as this year goes it’s just a part of me now,” Miller said. “I have learned to live with it and work the best I can.”

Over the summer Miller focused on gaining weight and building muscle. Humiston said Miller spends a lot of his time in the weight room, which isn’t normal for a pitcher. For Humiston, doing so has definitely improved Miller, and by the same token, the entire staff.

“We hear that term a lot ‘bigger, stronger and faster’, and I think that he is that guy who exemplifies that,” Humiston said. “Some of which was as a result of his diagnosis, but he does spend a lot of time in the weight room and knows what he has to do individually to allow us as a team to be successful. So, the weight room is a big part of who he is and his desire to get better [shows] and I think that he is a guy that a lot of other guys look up to on and off the field.”

This year Miller feels he has developed into the pitcher that everyone expected him to be the previous two seasons. He credits it to all of the time he spent in the weight room over the offseason training and gaining weight back as well. However, Humiston still sees room for improvement.

“He is not where he needs to be yet, but he is getting better every day and hopefully things go according to plan and he is able to continue to excel on our team,” Humiston said.

One of the highlights of Miller’s season this year was the 1-0 victory over the Bethany Bison March 30. Miller tossed arguably the best game of his career, striking out 15 batters, not walking anybody and only allowing two hits.

Humiston said Miller’s determination made him successful that day. Humiston also pointed out that Miller got out of some dangerous situations.

“Everybody likes to say, ‘if you guys didn’t have Mason then would that game have been different?’” Humiston said. “Maybe, but on that particular day we had Mason and he excelled and our team did what they needed to do to score one run and that is all they needed [to win].”

This season, Miller has developed what Humiston calls a new “out pitch” which is a pitch that is similar to what former Waynesburg pitcher and PAC all-time wins leader Brian Resnik developed going into his senior year back in 2016.

“Being able to have the open-mindedness to say ‘hey you know what, I can’t just throw fastballs [in the high 80s] miles per hour,” Humiston said. “I have to have another complimentary pitch that I can throw for strikes so I can get people out. While his fastball is his primary [pitch], if he is able to do what he has been for much of this year, which is being able to throw his other pitches for strikes, that just increases the productivity of his fastball and of his slider and he doesn’t throw his changeup much, but it’s a good change up.”

Through baseball, Miller has made some of his closest friends here at Waynesburg. Miller said that most of them are his classmates: John Przybylinski, Jonny Kutchman, Justin Buberl, Carter Uzzell and Vinny Monico.

“A lot of the baseball guys are my best friends,” Miller said. “So, as far as that goes that’s what I really value from it; the friendships I have made and obviously the relationships with the coaches and staff.”

Miller has also developed into a team leader, Humiston said. The biggest way that Miller leads Humiston said is by example, and being a hard worker on and off the field.

“He is a big part of our success and I think all of our guys realize that and so they go into a contest when he is on the mound to do their very best to be a good teammate and to have success at the end of the day,” Humiston said.

Miller’s goal for the Yellow Jackets this season is to make the PAC playoffs. Currently the team is 8-6 in the PAC, which Miller said is a “decent position,” but to stay there, they have to beat the teams they’re supposed to, as well as stealing some wins here and there.

“After [Washington & Jefferson] swept us it’s kind of [to] win the PAC is like the ultimate goal, but as far as like obtainable goals at this point, I think the PAC tournament’s our goal and it will at least give us a chance to play for a ring this year and hopefully next year as well,” Miller said.