Mason Miller had hoped to complete his record-breaking baseball career at Waynesburg University, but the coronavirus interfered with those plans.
Instead, the Bethel Park resident will now finish at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina.
The NCAA granted a fifth-year to all spring sport athletes as the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So Miller will play for the Division I institution while pursuing a master’s degree in business administration.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs compete in the Big South Conference and have placed among the top five in the 10-team league four of the past five seasons.
While Miller had a few other choices – Coastal Carolina and Arkansas – after he entered the transfer portal, he felt Gardner-Webb presented the best offer, especially regarding the MLB amateur draft.
“Should some clarity arise surrounding professional baseball, maybe I’ll end up going that route. But at this time I will continue my education and baseball career at Gardner-Webb,” Miller said. “I hope to make this jump and continue to pursue baseball as a career.”
Miller made a similar jump a few years ago when he made the leap from Bethel Park High School to Waynesburg University. Eventually, he became one of the most successful pitchers in the Presidents Athletic Conference.
“Mason has come a long way from his freshman year as a baseball player,” said Yellow Jackets manager Mike Humiston. “His work effort and determination to be the best he could possibly be were the primary reasons for him becoming a dominant player in our conference and for him having the opportunity to play at the D1 level.”
Miller also battled health issues. The summer before his junior year, he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Previously known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, the disease is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or none of the hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.
“As of now, there is no cure for it,” said the 20-year-old Bethel Park native. “They have been doing different research so there is a little bit of hope, but realistically it’s just part of who I am right now. I think I have come to terms with it now, but it was definitely hard for a while.”
Miller credits the discovery and management of his disease to his improvement. For starters, he added a significant amount of weight to his 6-5 frame while adhering to a diet high in protein and featuring plenty of green vegetables.
The diagnosis and lifestyle changes impacted his pitching.
Last spring, Miller compiled an 8-2 record in 11 starts. He owned a 1.86 ERA, which is a single-season school record. Miller also struck out 97 batters in 67 2/3 innings.
He led the PAC in ERA, strikeouts, strikeouts looking (25), opponent batting average (.173) complete games (six) and shutouts (four).
He was named PAC Pitcher of the Week twice, lauded as a first-team All-PAC performer and gathered All-Region awards from both D3baseball.com and the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Before it was cut short, his 2020 season was off to a similar start. In two outings, Miller went 2-0 over two complete games, 14 innings, with a 2.57 ERA, 24 strikeouts and a .160 opponent batting average. He was named PAC Pitcher of the Week during the first week of the season.
Miller graduated from Waynesburg earlier this May with a degree in finance and a 3.9 GPA. He was recently honored by the Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America as an Academic All-District selection after finishing with a 3.91 cumulative GPA. He is also a three-time member of the PAC spring academic honor roll, which a chance for a fourth appointment later this year.
While he is confident he could land a job in business, Miller welcomes the opportunity ahead of him to chase his dreams.
“I had dreams to compete at the highest collegiate level during high school, but quickly realized my talents then lined up better with D3,” Miller said. “I did not even have an idea that there was still a possibility until the virus canceled our season and we were awarded another year of eligibility. It all happened very fast and once I entered the portal, it took an extremely short period of time before I realized how realistic it was to have this D-I level opportunity.”