PEORIA, Ariz. -- For young Mariners outfield prospect Ian Miller, two dreams came true this spring. For starters, he was invited to his first Major League camp and had a chance to learn and glean from guys who've made it to where he wants to go.But to top it off,
PEORIA, Ariz. -- For young Mariners outfield prospect Ian Miller, two dreams came true this spring. For starters, he was invited to his first Major League camp and had a chance to learn and glean from guys who've made it to where he wants to go.
But to top it off, a pair of the Mariners' veterans he was watching and learning from just happened to be Dee Gordon and Ichiro Suzuki, two guys he grew up emulating because they play the same speed game he employs.
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For his first month in camp, Miller leaned on Gordon, one of the best bunters and basestealers in the Majors. And when Ichiro was added to the mix two weeks ago, well, that was the icing on the cake.
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"He was my favorite player growing up," Miller said. "I watched from his rookie year in 2001, there's a compilation on YouTube of all the infield hits he has. I couldn't tell you how many times I watched that video, just seeing him be able to do that. And at the time, that's the kind of hitter I was, all infield hits. If he could do it, why couldn't I do it?
"That's kind of how everything was built for me, so it's just amazing to watch. Especially now in person. I was in the same locker room as Dee Gordon and Ichiro, so it's kind of like my life is made pretty much. Two of my favorite players are here, and I can try to pick their brains as much as I can and try to play just like them."
Miller, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Mariners' No. 17 prospect, was reassigned to Minor League camp last week, though he's continued to be used in Cactus League games. On the spring, he's hit .259 with five RBIs and three stolen bases in 27 at-bats.
After being named the Mariners' Minor League Hitter of the Year last season after batting .307 with 43 stolen bases and 85 runs at Double-A Arkansas and a late-season stint with Triple-A Tacoma, the 26-year-old knows speed remains his strongest weapon, and he's worked harder than ever to refine that tool this spring.
He quickly attached himself to Gordon when the Mariners' new leadoff man arrived at camp, and the two could frequently be seen practicing bunts together after everyone else finished hitting.
"He's helped me tremendously, probably more than I would have expected," Miller said. "Just little stuff like defense. He's new to the outfield, and he was teaching me a lot of things. Bunting, stuff at the plate, routine, what to do to get ready every day at the cage and on the field. It's extremely beneficial to have him around.
"We worked on bunting quite a few times. He's just a wizard with the bat. The way he goes about it and practices it, it's game-like all the time. So when he gets in a game, it's easy to slow down. The bunt really worked for me this past year, and I thought I worked hard at it, but I didn't work nearly as hard as he works on it. So it was kind of an eye-opener."
Miller said one of the best experiences of his camp was being accepted so readily by the veterans. Gordon, who was already friends with Ichiro from their time together in Miami the past three years, took Miller over to introduce him to the future Hall of Famer the first day Ichiro arrived.
And Miller acknowledged he's had a hard time taking his eyes off the 44-year-old whenever he can watch him work in the cage or in the field.
"Just seeing guys like that who are speed guys, who can get bunts down and steal bags, they get paid for doing that," he said with a smile. "It tells me like, 'Hey man, maybe you can do that, too, one day, and get paid for doing that.' It gives you hope and confidence. And for them to be great people on top of that is just special."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.