'She's the best': Mom a key figure in story of A's phenom Mason Miller

May 12th, 2024

Kirstin Miller remembers the exact moment her son, , first became intrigued by baseball.

The year was 2003. It was a beautiful spring day in Pittsburgh, Pa., the time of year when Kirstin most relished the opportunity to take Mason and his younger brother, Zach, on walks at a nearby park. Walking by a baseball field, a four-year-old Mason stopped in his tracks, eyes wide open.

“He went, ‘Mom, what’s that?’” Kirstin recalled. “I had no idea what he was talking about. He said, ‘Those kids, what are they doing?’ I told him they were playing baseball, and he said, ‘Well, I want to do that.’”

From there, Kirstin and her husband, Matthew, became full-time supporters of their son’s baseball interest. Later that summer, they enrolled Miller in a clinic organized by the Pirates for kids in the southside of Pittsburgh. Then came Little League.

Not long after, he was hooked.

“He lived and breathed baseball,” Kirstin said of her son. “He played a baseball video game on the computer, and I think that’s where he learned the ins and outs and the thinking part of the game. He knew everything about it. God gifted him with amazing talents. He could play anywhere in the field. He could smash the ball. He could field the ball anywhere. It was amazing to see him enjoying the game and being so good at it, too.”

As Miller’s baseball journey progressed, Kirstin remained a constant central figure. Once the family moved to western Pennsylvania, trips to PNC Park for Pirates games became a frequent occurrence for Kirstin and her two sons, especially when the Cardinals and Mason’s favorite player, Albert Pujols, came to town.

“He truly loved going to see the Pirates,” Kirstin said. “Heading down for a game and all the excitement of that. He was always fully tuned into the game. … There was one game we went to that Albert was there and Mason was on top of the world. I think we even took a picture of him with Albert up to bat in the foreground.”

Mason Miller, his younger brother Zach and mom Kirstin at PNC Park (Photo courtesy Kirstin Miller)

These days, Miller is an inspiration for kids in his own right for what he’s been able to achieve as a young diabetic. He was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes on April 18, 2018 while a sophomore at Division III Waynesburg University. Like always, Kirstin was there by her son’s side.

The diagnosis was a scary time for the entire Miller family -- except Mason. Just a few days after receiving the news, he packed his car and drove back to school.

“He was getting in a car and driving back to Waynesburg like, ‘See you guys!’” Kirstin said. “He’s got insulin in the car. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t even understand diabetes and he’s going back to school with it. Wow!’ He just carried on.”

As Kirstin put it, Mason is an "overcomer." This was just the first instance. After finding the right diet and strength training program, Miller bulked up to 220 pounds. With that weight gain came added velocity to his fastball, increasing from 87-88 mph to as high as 99 mph. His stuff improved to the point that in 2021 he was able 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.

That perseverance showed through again last year. After an electric Major League debut as a starting pitcher, Miller suffered a UCL sprain in his right elbow that sidelined him nearly four months. He returned by September in time for a few appearances and has since re-emerged as an elite flamethrowing rookie closer who has been the talk of the baseball world through the first month of the 2024 season.

“It’s truly unbelievable,” Kirstin said. “He stays down for a brief moment if something doesn’t go as planned, and he just stands up again and keeps moving forward. That’s been who he is since he was a little kid. He doesn’t get discouraged.

"I call him ‘Sunny’ because he just has such a sunny personality. He’s always an optimist. But for this all to happen in five years after he got diagnosed with diabetes, he’s been a remarkable example.”

For Mason, whose national media attention is seemingly growing by the day, he can’t help but feel grateful for both of his parents and the way they were always there for not just him, but also his brother Zach -- who is now a music producer -- and his sister Corinne, who works in dentistry in addition to being a talented artist.

“My Mom was around all the time,” Miller said. “Always getting me where I need to go. Getting me food. You name it. She’s the best. … I don’t think enough can be said about what she did for us and just the values she instilled. It’s a joy for me now to get to perform on a stage like this and have [my parents] be able to tune in and watch.”