Bethel Park baseball community takes pride in electric Oakland A’s closer Mason Miller

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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Mason Miller is the pride of the Bethel Park baseball community.

The 25-year-old flame-throwing right-handed hurler has been referred to as the most electric pitcher in baseball. Through his first 13 games as the closer for the Oakland A’s this season, Miller has eight saves and a 1.10 ERA. He struck out 33 batters in 16 1/3 innings.

“Mason’s performance for the A’s has been outstanding,” Bethel Park baseball coach Pat Zehnder said. “He has a great attitude and such a mature outlook on his process and life in general. That will enable him to handle the ebbs and flows and all the adversity that comes along the way in baseball, and in life.

“I believe the sky is the limit for him and cannot wait to watch and root him on along the way.”

At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Miller is a dominating presence on the mound. He earned his first career save April 9 in a 4-3 win at Texas.

Perhaps his most impressive performance to date came in the middle game of the recent three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Miller recorded the save in a 5-2 win by striking out, in succession, Jared Triolo swinging, Michael A. Taylor looking and Oneil Cruz swinging, in the top of the ninth inning.

Prior to the start of the 2024 season, Miller was asked to be a guest speaker at Bethel Park during the baseball team’s winter workouts.

“I was in contact with him during the winter, and he was gracious enough to come and speak with the program on a Saturday during our workouts,” Zehnder said. “For him to take the time out and meet with the players meant a lot to the kids and coaches.

“Now that he is in season, I’m sure he is swamped with messages and media requests, so I try to give him space to focus and do what he needs to do. But I watch every clip and we talk about him all the time. We are very proud to have a former Hawk making such a splash in the pros.”

The switch to relief has added 2 mph to Miller’s four-seam fastball, which sat at 98.3 last season. The right-hander also is down to just two pitches — fastball and slider — after offering up a cutter and a changeup in 2023.

He said before the season started he was focused on refining his pitch mix as a reliever and focusing on his strengths for 15 to 20 pitches instead of toying around with a third or fourth pitch.

Miller has had a meteoric rise throughout his career on the diamond.

He competed in baseball and golf at Bethel Park while being home-schooled and is a 2016 graduate of the 21st Century Cyber Charter School. He then played at Waynesburg for four years.

“I was in my first year as a coach at Bethel as a volunteer JV assistant for Mason’s senior year,” Zehnder said, “so I did not have too much interaction with him. But he was well-liked throughout the team, treated everyone with respect and was a great overall kid.”

Miller’s career began to accelerate in 2019 during his junior season at Waynesburg when he set a school record with 97 strikeouts in 672/3 innings. He gained a jump in fastball velocity following a change in diet and added weight spurred by a diagnosis of Type I diabetes.

Following his career with the Yellowjackets, Miller played for Division I Gardner-Webb, located in in Boiling Springs, N.C., as a fifth-year graduate student.

Oakland selected Miller in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft. He made his professional debut that year with the Arizona Complex League Athletics.

“It is really cool to see someone who grew up around here and actually played in this program having so much success,” Zehnder said. “It makes it even better when you know how good of a person he is. The same goes for (Bethel Park graduate) Justin Meis, a pitcher in Double-A for the Pirates.

“Bethel Park has such a rich history in baseball and so many great players have come through the program over the years. But it is hard to ever imagine someone who played here dominating the best players in the game and getting such notoriety nationally. It is great for our current players to see guys like Justin and Mason make it to the professional ranks, and when you weigh in Mason’s journey and the story that comes with it, it is such an inspiration to all athletes at Bethel Park, not just baseball players.”

In 2022, Miller pitched in only six games between the ACL Athletics, Lansing Lugnuts and Las Vegas Aviators. After the season, he played in the Arizona Fall League.

Miller began the 2023 season with the Double-A Midland RockHounds, starting one game before being moved up to Triple-A Las Vegas. After one Triple-A start, Miller was promoted to the major leagues.

Miller made his MLB debut April 19 against the Chicago Cubs. He pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk and recorded five strikeouts. He became the 10th starting pitcher since the debut of Statcast to throw 15 pitches above 100 mph.

In early May, Miller began dealing with elbow tightness. He was diagnosed with a mild sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow and promptly shut down from pitching.

He added 65 pounds following a change to his diet and workout plan.

On June 30, he was transferred to the 60-day injured list and was activated Sept. 6 in a relief role. In an effort to maintain Miller’s health, the A’s announced that he would be a reliever in 2024.

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