Prep Baseball & Softball

July 29, 2014

Granite City outfielder commits to Ole Miss

By following up a highly successful spring high school season with an even better summer, Granite City High senior outfielder D.J. Miller landed himself a baseball scholarship to the University of Mississippi.

Miller got offers from Ole Miss and Alabama on Monday and he decided to give the Rebels a verbal commitment.

"They were my No. 1 colleges and I called Ole Miss last night," said Miller, who is in Florida at a summer tournament with the St. Louis Pirates travel team. "It just came together really fast. "Watching (Ole Miss) in the College Word Series, I just wanted to be there. That's something I always wanted to play in and I felt like if I went there I'd have a chance to do that.

"It's a good program that helps you develop."

Coming off a .389 season with 13 doubles, two triples, one home run and 16 RBIs along with a team-leading 42 runs scored, Miller pushed his way to the attention of high-level college programs this summer.

He also was a Belleville News-Democrat first-team All-Area selection as a junior outfielder.

"I talked to other coaches and I think he was probably one of the most improved player in our conference this year," said former Granite City baseball coach John Moad, now the school's athletic director. "He really solidified our outfield this year with a plus-arm and plus-speed. He gets to some balls that I didn't think he had a chance to.

"He's got everything those college scouts are looking for."

Miller described his overall game as "Just playing with a lot of energy, being somebody who can change the game in an instant with my speed or when I'm up to bat."

The scholarship offer was even more special to Miller because he underwent surgery last June to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

"It just meant a lot to me because I remember last summer I wanted to be offered and wasn't," Miller said. "I was just happy I came back before high school season this year. The rehab went well and I didn't have any problems."

Moad said Miller, a former second baseman who was a basketball standout as a sophomore, has showed remarkable improvement with a lot more upside.

"I think he's very coachable," Miller said. "He's willing to do whatever it takes for the team. It's just the way he goes about things. He's very even-keeled, doesn't get too high and doesn't get too low. He plays the game the right way."

The Ole Miss recruiting chances weren't hurt by having former Rebels, Althoff High and minor-league pitcher Brett Huber on the Pirates' coaching staff this summer.

Miller now will get to play against former Granite City High teammate and incoming Arkansas freshman catcher Chad Spanberger in the Southeastern Conference.

"I'm excited about that," said Miller, in his third season with the Pirates.

"The kid can swing the bat and has never stopped hitting," said Pirates coach Rick Strickland, who recently had Gibault High standout and Pirates infielder-outfielder Jordan McFarland commit to Arkansas. "(Miller) hit last summer got hurt, then he came back and started hitting again. He's a guy with a chance to be a future pro maybe."

Strickland was happy to see a player like Miller get a chance to play at such a high level.

"He's an elite hitter," Strickland said. "He's going to fill out and end up hitting some home runs someday. His best tool right now is his hitting and he's a pretty good runner when he's further away from that ACL surgery."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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