Miller set for biggest stage yet with 1st All-Star nod

July 8th, 2024

OAKLAND -- Attention baseball fans: The Reaper is heading to his first All-Star Game.

Ahead of Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles at the Coliseum, learned he will be representing the A’s at this year’s Midsummer Classic. The flamethrowing closer is the first rookie reliever to be selected to the All-Star Game since David Bednar of the Pirates in 2021 and the first A’s rookie reliever since Ryan Cook in 2012.

About two hours before first pitch, manager Mark Kotsay called a team meeting to announce the selection with a pregame celebration inside the A’s clubhouse.

“I’m super excited,” Miller said. “It’s a relief to know. Everybody knows it’s coming up. You’re just waiting to see and being hopeful, of course. … This is what every player works for. To have the success I’ve had in a new role this year and be able to represent our [team], it’s really an honor.”

The All-Star Game is set for July 16 (5 p.m. PT, FOX) at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Miller’s resilient tale of perseverance will add a new chapter with his first career All-Star selection. It began on April 18, 2018, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes during his sophomore year at Division III Waynesburg University. Miller overcame that by discovering the right diet and strength training program to help him increase his fastball velocity from 87-88 mph to 99 mph, which opened up an opportunity to transfer to Division I Gardner-Webb University, where his dominance as a senior led to the A’s selecting him in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft.

Adversity struck again last season. After an electric Major League debut as Oakland’s top pitching prospect, Miller suffered a UCL sprain in his right elbow that sidelined him for nearly four months before he returned in September for a few appearances. This past offseason, Kotsay and A’s general manager David Forst met with Miller to discuss a move to the bullpen as a means of preserving the health of his tantalizing arm, a transition that Miller embraced. Since then, he’s re-emerged as an elite closer who was the talk of the baseball world through the first month of the 2024 season.

“It feels like a lifetime ago,” Miller said. “Taking the moments like this to reflect on where I’ve been and all the steps along the journey, it’s really surreal. It feels great to just look at the work I’ve done. To sit here and have that recognition now, it’s awesome.”

A signature moment of Miller’s electrifying campaign came at Yankee Stadium in April. Making his first appearance in the hyped-up atmosphere of the Bronx, Miller dominated the trio of Anthony Volpe, Aaron Judge and Juan Soto by striking out all three on 14 pitches. His punchout of Soto on a 103.3 mph fastball remains the fastest strikeout pitch of any pitcher in MLB in 2024.

“I think that was when some people started taking note,” Miller said. “Just being able to do it on that stage, having that atmosphere, the butterflies and the nerves are a little higher. … Being able to go in and do that to the top of the order was really awesome for me just to have a moment like that to look back on and take some confidence from.”

In what will be a showcase of the game’s stars, Miller certainly qualifies as must-watch for his intimidating 6-foot-5 presence on the mound that has garnered him a spooky “Reaper” nickname to boot. He leads all rookies with 14 saves while topping all Major League relievers with 66 strikeouts.

Miller's 278 pitches of at least 100 mph or harder are by far the most in the Majors. His high-octane fastball has maxed out at 103.7 mph, which gives him the chance to set the record for the fastest pitch thrown at an All-Star Game currently held by Aroldis Chapman, who hit 103.4 mph in the 2015 Midsummer Classic.

“For Mason, I couldn’t be more proud of a player that’s getting the opportunity to go showcase himself in an All-Star Game,” said Kotsay, who will join Miller in Arlington as part of AL manager Bruce Bochy’s coaching staff. “He’s worked really hard. There was a point last year where we truly didn’t know if he was going to be able to pitch this year. It’s a testament to the work that he put in. … He’s a quality young man who carries himself really well with a lot of humility for the success he’s having this year. It’s a well-deserved opportunity.”