Miller leaves to come home

The 2020 Cougar Athletics Spring Preview


My mom came home and told me about Columbia College adding baseball, and I knew it was a done deal.

— Luke Miller, senior pitcher

Yogi Berra wasn’t just one of the best catchers in baseball history. The New York Yankees legend and Hall of Famer may be better known for the way he creatively butchered the English language, with gems such as, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” and, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

If he’d been around to hear Luke Miller’s journey from his hometown of Blue Springs, Missouri, to Columbia College, he might have said something like, “The kid had to leave where he grew up to go home.”
Luke Miller

Even though the Cougar senior has spent his entire life in Blue Springs, Columbia College has been part of his life for almost as long as he can remember: For the last 12 years, his mother, Cindy, has served as the director of Columbia College’s Kansas City location. In November 2018, she received a promotion to regional director, overseeing operations at the college’s locations in Denver, Orlando, Jacksonville and Salt Lake City in addition to Kansas City.

On October 28, 2014, former director of athletics Bob Burchard announced a continued expansion of the Cougars’ sport offerings, resurrecting the baseball program that had been dormant since 1982. At the time, Miller was a junior at Blue Springs High School. He’d played baseball since his pee-wee days all the way through American Legion teams. He hadn’t given much thought to where he’d play in college at that point, but he knew he wanted to play in college. “Then all of a sudden my mom comes home and tells me [about CC adding baseball], and I knew it was a done deal.”

Miller has been a catcher – coincidentally, like Berra – nearly his entire playing career. He began his first year of baseball as a third baseman. “One day, coach said, ‘Our catcher isn't showing up,” and me being the eager kid, I was I immediately raised my hand and said I wanted to catch. From then on, I never did anything else.”
Luke Miller with his family and coaches

With coach Darren Munns’ recruiting classes improving every year, Miller is now doing something else, using his arm that once threw out opposing baserunners to pitch from the other end of the battery. “It was a huge shock to me, but I’m excited,” Miller says. “I’m so ready to pitch.”

Doing so will add to a number of memories Miller’s collected over his four years in Columbia. Among them include his first collegiate hit – a homer his sophomore year at Williams Baptist. The only downside to the hit was that, because he was forced to swing as part of a called hit-and-run, Miller didn’t even see the ball sail over the fence.

“I knew I made good contact, but I just put my head down and started running. I remember everyone getting quiet, and all of a sudden everyone burst into cheers,” he says. “I looked at Boom (assistant coach Craig McAndrews) – he was just clapping his hands and smiling – and right then it clicked.”
Miller and his teammates are also ready to better their 31-23 record from last year that ended in the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round. “We’re going to be scary good,” he says.

Miller is quick to credit Dr. Ken Akers for his success in the classroom. Akers taught several of Miller’s classes in the Plaster School of Business and served as Miller’s internship mentor. “He’s a wonderful professor and an even better person. I could go to him with any questions or concerns, and he was always there to help me.”

Akers also served as Miller’s mentor for his internship last summer at Harvesters, the food bank serving the Kansas City metropolitan area. Miller assisted with community outreach, gave tours to volunteers, and planned his own food drive that secured more than 600 meals over the course of two weeks.

Miller recently became engaged to his girlfriend, Kailey; the couple plans to marry next year after she graduates from Columbia College. “It was one of those cheesy ‘time stops when you look at her’ moments.”

Until then, Miller will enjoy his final season with his baseball teammates before they all reach another crossroads in their lives. As Berra would say, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

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