By Michael Bower
A trip to Hawaii in February with his parents to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary and a favor returned from a friend helped Matt Miller earn a partial baseball scholarship to the University of Hawaii.
The 2013 Del Norte High graduate and star center fielder signed with the Division I college last week, after it looked like he would be heading to Palomar College as a hidden gem.
“It was really interesting how it all played out,” said Miller, who hit .490 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs last year for the Nighthawks. “It was pretty cool. I was expecting to get picked up by somebody, but I didn’t think it would be a school like Hawaii.”
The way it all played out was very unusual. Miller, who was also drawn to Hawaii because of its science department, took the time to visit with the coaches in February while on vacation celebrating his parent’s anniversary. He was told the program was in need of only pitchers and not position players.
Miller gave the coaches a heads up about his friend, Mark Vela, of San Dieguito Academy. Vela had a 0.99 ERA over 78 innings pitched last season. Vela ended up getting an offer and signing with Hawaii.
July rolled around and the Hawaii coaching staff changed its tune. They asked Vela if he knew of any outfielders that could hit. Vela returned the favor and immediately gave the coaching staff Miller’s name and discussions began.
“The assistant coach ended up coming to my house and meeting with me,” said Miller, who stands 6-feet, 3-inches tall and weighs 195-pounds. “He offered me a (walk-on) roster spot right there with my parents. The head coach eventually called and offered me a partial scholarship.”
Now Miller will be playing in the prestigious Big West Conference and living on island of Oahu.
“It is unlike anything I could have imagined,” he said. “I have dreamed of playing college baseball and in the College World Series since I was a kid and now I am going to get to play at a big Division I school at Hawaii. To first get the walk-on offer was cool. But to get a partial scholarship shows they really believe in me as a ball player. It is a big confidence booster for me.”
Miller, a three-year varsity player for the Nighthawks, said he expects to compete for a starting position in the outfield right away. The Rainbow Warriors struggled last year, going 16-35 overall and 11-16 in Big West Conference play.
“Being a three-year varsity starter at Del Norte, I have never sat the bench,” Miller said. “So I am going to go out there and compete to the best of my ability to earn a spot.”