|Paul Mills was the 1998 North Central |
Conference Pitcher of the Year
That happens this time of year, every year for me.
As we were discussing the possibility of California Chrome winning horse racing's Triple Crown with the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes taking place Saturday, I thought back to 1988.
The Maverick Baseball team that year featured a lanky blonde-headed righthanded pitcher from Coon Rapids, Minn., named Paul Mills.
Millsie, a senior who threw from the side, was in his second year with the program after transferring from Anoka-Ramsey where he was was a dominant player for the Rams, earning all-state, all-region and All-America honors as a JUCO performer. After his first year with us in 1987, he proved to be dominant at the NCAA DII level as well. He was named the 1988 North Central Conference Pitcher of the Year, All-NCC First Team and All-Region after going 6-1 with a 1.71 earned average while fanning 44 batters in 42 innings his last season with the Mavericks.
I can remember having a conversation with Paul in the dugout at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud prior to a MSU game vs. St. Cloud State that spring. The Kentucky Derby was taking place that day (May 7) and he asked me who I thought would win the race. Now I'm no horse racing afficianado, but have on occasion been called a dilettante. While the exact details of our conversation remain foggy, I do recall him initiating things by saying something like "Hey, PA, who do have in the Derby today?" and us discussing each other's picks.
A quick check on Google (like I said, I'm a dilettante) shows that Winning Colors with Gary Stevens aboard, won that day in Lexington.
In any event, our office conversation made me think of Paul Mills. The types of memories, like the one I had with him in the dugout that day in St. Cloud, are the little things that in a lot of ways makes this profession special. We're so fortunate to interact with young people on a daily basis.
A year after his senior season, I learned Paul had been in a tragic accident and lost his life, along with two other young adults, when an Amtrak passenger train rammed a van carrying five male adults late at night at a railroad crossing in Coon Rapids. The date was Nov. 12, 1989.
Paul was an engaging, personable and funny type of person. One who made a lasting and memorable impression. He would be 48 years old when this year's Triple Crown races would be taking place.
Thanks to the Kentucky Derby, I think of Paul Mills this time of year. Every year.