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Pittsburgh Roots: Possibility of Facing Cutch, Hometown Team Excites Bethel Park’s Mason Miller



Mason Miller

OAKLAND — Last year, Mason Miller achieved things most baseball players dream of, but never come close to achieving. 

He made his major league debut and got his first strikeout (then 37 more after that).

But, thanks to injury, there were some things he didn’t achieve. 

He didn’t get his first big league win and didn’t get to pitch in the ballpark he grew up attending.

Miller, a native of Bethel Park, which is in the Pittsburgh area, grew up rooting for the Pirates and going to between three and five games a year at PNC Park.

“Some years more, some years less,” Miller told Pittsburgh Baseball Now on Monday.

Most years, the Pirates lost a lot of games, which Miller remembers. But he also remembers watching stars such as Gerrit Cole– who he took particular interest in as a pitcher– and, of course, the face of the franchise, Andrew McCutchen.

Last season, the A’s played the Pirates in Pittsburgh June 5-7, and Miller had those dates circled.

The A’s 2021 third-round draft pick started 2023 in the minors and was determined to get the call to “The Show” by June so he could pitch in his hometown before family and friends.

He made it to the majors in plenty of time, debuting April 19. 

But after four starts, the last of which coming May 7, Miller got hurt and didn’t pitch in the majors again until September.

A promising rookie season– Miller ended it with a 3.78 ERA and averaged more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings– was disheartening for many reasons, and not getting to pitch at PNC Park was one of them. 

“A disappointment for sure,” Miller said. “I mean, coming into the year, I had that one marked on the calendar. That was my goal to get up before that series. And I did that, but I wasn’t able to stay healthy long enough to get to that point. So, yeah, I was disappointed for sure. But fortunately with the new scheduling, getting to play the Buccos every year, and then being on the road to PNC every year, it’s going to be pretty sweet. I’m looking forward to next year.”

Now, it’s 2024, and Miller is thriving in a new role. 

He’s a closer, and there’s a chance that, from where we sit, he’s the best one in the league. 

As of Monday, Miller has converted seven of seven save opportunities. He’s allowed two runs over 18.2 innings, good for a 1.46 ERA, has a WHIP below one and strikes out an astronomical 18.2 batters per nine innings. 

He also throws really, really hard, as detailed in this piece that called Miller “the most electric closer in MLB.

Now, the A’s are playing the team Miller grew up watching, and although it’s in Oakland, not Pittsburgh, Miller does have the chance to go against McCutchen, who debuted with the Pirates when Miller was 10. 

“He’s a testament of time for sure,” Miller said. “To have a career like he’s had is amazing. I remember going to games in middle school, high school, that was the guy you came to see. Out in centerfield, holding it down. So it’s just a very surreal moment to be on the same field as him and just competing at the same level is really, really cool.

Miller also could have the chance to rub shoulders with another flamethrower.

When he was 11, Aroldis Chapman made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds. 

Now, after 14 seasons, five teams and a pair of World Series rings, Chapman is a Pirate, and Miller hopes to have a chance to talk with him for a bit over these three days. 

“If the opportunity presents itself, of course,” he said. “I mean, you take those opportunities when an older guy is willing to talk to you to maybe share some knowledge or just some perspective on their journey and how they’ve gotten to the point that they have in their career. That’s all everybody’s trying to do is just stay in the game as long as a guy like he has.”

It remains to be seen whether Miller will still be pitching in a decade, but the fact that he evolved from a Division III pitcher at Waynesburg University to an elite closer is more than most would have expected.

So has Miller surprised himself the way he’s surprised many others?

“I think when I take a step back, give myself some perspective, probably. But living it every day I’ve been working hard to get to where I am. So I think it’s a lot more just gratitude and satisfaction with the work I’ve put in and seeing those results shine through on the field. 

*Featured image courtesy of the Oakland A’s

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