Young diabetics finding a champion in A's star closer

May 20th, 2024

Though grew up a loyal Pirates fan in Pittsburgh, Albert Pujols took precedence as his favorite player.

Yes, Pujols will be immortalized in Cooperstown for a legendary career that includes more than 700 home runs, 3,000-plus hits and a few MVP Awards. His legacy, though, goes beyond the Hall of Fame numbers. Pujols is a Hall of Fame person, and that’s really what Miller admires most about him.

In 2005, the first of Pujols’ three MVP seasons, the slugger created the Pujols Family Foundation, which focuses on serving individuals born with Down Syndrome. It’s something that hit close to home for Pujols, whose daughter, Isabella, was born with the genetic disorder.

Miller always remembered how Pujols directed his stardom toward humanitarian efforts. Now that he’s emerged as a star in his own right, the flamethrowing rookie A’s closer is utilizing his platform for a good cause.

As Miller’s profile has risen throughout the season following a visit to MLB Network and recognition as the American League Reliever of the Month for March/April, families of children with diabetes have reached out to the A’s in hopes of meeting the right-hander. Miller, who was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes at 20 years old, was all for it.

During the A’s recent 10-game road trip through Seattle, Houston and Kansas City, the A’s invited a diabetic kid from near the area to a game. Each time, Miller took time during batting practice to meet with each kid and their family on the field.

“I just try to show them I’m a real person,” Miller said. “It’s a cool moment for me as much as it is for them. Being diagnosed at 20, I didn’t really have the same struggles or upbringing that they did. But just being able to be a role model for them is a cool moment for me.”

In Kansas City, 9-year-old Hudson Crutchfield from Oklahoma met his “hero” in Miller on the field at Kauffman Stadium. Miller signed a baseball for Crutchfield, then Crutchfield presented Miller with his own drawing of Miller firing off a 103-mph fastball.

In Houston, Miller met with 8-year-old Shepherd, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 6. Miller signed a baseball, took a picture and stuck around for a chat with Shepherd and his father before taking the field for pregame warmups. On his way back to the clubhouse, Miller brought along several other A’s teammates to meet Shepherd.

At T-Mobile Park, Miller met 13-year-old Wyatt from the Portland area. Wyatt is a Type 1 diabetic who is also a baseball player.

“We were able to talk about baseball training, goals and stuff like that,” Miller said. “It’s case to case. Every kid is different. But it’s all a cool experience.”

Before the meeting, Wyatt was private about his diagnosis. After the meeting, Wyatt went public about his Type 1 diabetes on social media.

“That was a cool thing for me to see,” Miller said. “It warms my heart. Everybody has self-image stuff you’re a little more conscious of. I was always a little self-conscious about [my diagnosis] initially because it was different for me. I had no idea what it was, let alone what my friends or people that I would meet would think of it.

“It’s part of who you are, but it’s not who you are entirely. It’s not something you need to be embarrassed about or scared to share. People are going to accept you if they’re good people that should be in your life. People that have an issue with it is not someone you really want to surround yourself with anyway. I talked about that. [Wyatt’s] mom is great and helps him a lot. She just challenged him to take ownership of it. She’s awesome, and it’s great for him to have that support system.”

This is just the beginning for Miller. He plans on expanding his efforts by doing more active outreach in the future and relishes the opportunity to impact the lives of young kids much like he has over the past week.

“It’s a dream for me just to be here playing,” Miller said. “This is a bonus that I’m able to do that for them.”