When it comes to supporting a cause, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller certainly holds veterans and active-duty military members near and dear to his heart. That's because his grandfather Chuck Pruett, whom he describes more like a father figure, was more than just an Army Blue Spader (26th Infantry Regiment).
When it comes to supporting a cause, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller certainly holds veterans and active-duty military members near and dear to his heart. That's because his grandfather Chuck Pruett, whom he describes more like a father figure, was more than just an Army Blue Spader (26th Infantry Regiment). Pruett never missed one of Miller's baseball or football games and is the primary reason for the right-hander's countless veteran initiatives with the D-backs.
Miller's ongoing project is the Heroes F1rst ticket program, which provides four D-backs tickets to an active-duty military member for each home game this season.
"I've met a couple of the families, and I get a lot of tweets from people who get to come to the games," Miller said. "I remember meeting one family where the son just got back from Afghanistan, and you could tell they were really excited to be here. It was so satisfying to see just how happy they were."
One particularly special experience a few months ago is permanently etched into the pitcher's mind. On July 4, he caught the ceremonial first pitch from a Navy SEAL and was gifted a meaningful token in return.
"They carry around these badges of what rank and division they were in, and he gave one to me," Miller said. "It was pretty cool he gave that to me. It meant a lot."
In addition to his ongoing home-game efforts, the right-hander visited MANA (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force) House in Phoenix earlier this season, a facility founded in 2008 by 14 homeless veterans to offer individualized basic resources, community and advocacy for military members. This year alone, 199 veterans have been housed there, while more than 500 residents have graduated from the facility over the past eight years.
"It is a pretty special place; a place of veterans helping other veterans," Miller said. "All of them have different stories and different backgrounds. My grandfather and great-grandfather having been soldiers is the reason why I've wanted to take my efforts for the community there, and it was a great experience visiting."
MANA House received the Ken Kendrick Grand Slam Award through the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation in 2017 for a $100,000 grant that would later fund a commercial kitchen in the newfound home to many veterans. The recent $3.1 million renovation for the facility, which provides food to homeless veterans and the resources for job training in food services, is the result of the promising award.
"My papa, my grandad influenced the way I went about my life," said Miller, who plans on continuing his support of veterans going forward. "He was somebody I talked to a lot, relied on a lot, and helped me with everyday and life decisions."
Kennedy Jorgensen is a contributor to MLB.com