Millas smacks 1st big league hit past a familiar face

September 3rd, 2023

WASHINGTON -- When pushed a 1-2, 97 mph fastball toward third base in the seventh inning on Saturday, he hoped a familiar face would not derail what looked like his first Major League hit.

Jake Burger, his former Missouri State teammate and the Marlins’ third baseman, was swung toward shortstop, well off the line. The ball bounded into left field, setting off a chain of events. Millas’ mom, Lynelle, cried in the stands. Those in the Nationals' dugout signaled for the ball. And on first base, Millas had a temporary loss of thought: He forgot to take his shin guard off after safely reaching the bag.

“Oh, my gosh,” Millas said of his space out and subsequent scramble to remove his gear.

The Nats’ No. 23 prospect’s pinch-hit single was a joyful bump in an otherwise lump-filled day for the club. Trevor Williams allowed four homers in the Nationals’ 11-5 loss at Nationals Park, the sixth in their past seven games.

It did little to dampen Millas’ milestone, though, which came in front of his fiancée, mom and grandmother. The hit also arrived five weeks to the day since his grandfather, Rev. Larry “Coach” Patton, died. Patton taught Millas about baseball and life, becoming an enormous influence while he moved from high school and college in the St. Louis area to the Minor Leagues and ultimately into the Majors on Aug. 28.

“He was my biggest fan,” Millas said. “I’m sure that had a lot to do with [my mom’s] tears, because if he was here, he’d be speechless. I can’t even put into words how much he meant to me. My grandma was here, too. And she was just beside herself after the game and telling us how much grandpa would love to see that. That was pretty special.”

The ball resides in Millas’ locker for now. Recent conversations with teammate Travis Blankenhorn have Millas thinking more about tracking memorabilia now that he is in the Majors. Blankenhorn, who hit his first Major League homer since 2021 the night prior, suggested that it is time to begin documenting the cool things happening in their careers.

So, Millas has an initial plan: talk with Burger to see if he can get an autograph from Marlins hitting savant Luis Arraez. It’s a start.

“Spice up my basement a little bit in the future,” Millas said with a laugh.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez chuckled when recalling Millas’ lapse at first. He then added he’s been impressed with how the 25-year-old handles himself. Martinez wants Millas to pour over scouting reports and spend time learning his new pitching staff in meetings for the starters and via conversations about the relievers with bullpen coach Rick Bones. The next first for Millas could very well be a Major League start.