HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL

Six MLB players speak to Vandegrift baseball team

The players have combined to win five World Series titles

Posted

It was Sept. 1, 2007. Clay Buchholz was making his second career start. Kevin Millar was entering the final few years of his big league career. 

He finished with nine strikeouts, including sending Millar back tot he dugout twice in the 10-0 win.

“It was a sick joke,” Millar said. “Our scoring report said he had a fastball, curveball and changeup. It didn’t say anything about him throwing to right-handers. Some organizations are good at scoring reports and some aren’t. The Orioles, at that time, stunk.”

Buchholz and Milar joined four other current and former professional baseball players helped Vandegrift get excited about its baseball season with a question and answer session ahead of a home run derby on Saturday morning. 

Pitchers John Lackey and Chad Qualls and Buchholz who all played on a big league team last season while retired players Kelly Wunsch, Matt Hagen and Millar also answered questions. 

“I get to play baseball for a living and that was my dream growing up,” Buchholz said. “You’re in a  different city every three days. It’s a grind that nobody really understands outside the game. Your body has to get used to all that.”

Wunsch acted as the emcee, but Millar, a former World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox and current analyst on the MLB Network, took over the microphone at times. 

He is the prime example of grinding to make it to the big leagues. After playing college baseball at Lamar University in Beaumont, Millar wasn’t picked in the MLB draft but played in an independent league. From there, he joined the Orioles minor league system and parlayed that into an 11-year career. 

“The position players really grind it,” Millar, a former first baseman, said. “Starting pitchers play 30 times a year. They’ve got their golf clubs, they’re usually the best looking guys and they get paid more than anybody else. I guess my advice would be learn to pitch.”

Qualls had a 14-year big league career and spent time with the  Astros, Diamondbacks, Rays, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, Marlins and Rockies. He has a career ERA of 3.89 and made 19 appearances for Colorado last season. 

Every player on the has spent time on the disabled list. But Qualls’ injury was more unique. When he twisted to get out the way of a line drive, his left leg didn’t move and he dislocated his kneecap.  

“It went right to my shortstop and I got my 24ths ave of the season and the team went on,” he said. “Coming back from that was easy. I was fortunate. I pitched for 14 seasons and didn’t have any surgeries on my arm or shoulder.” 

The group had combined to win combined to win five World Series rings.

Millar was on the 2004 Rex Sox team that ended the 86-year championship drought. While there were superstars on that team like Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the many of players were journeymen like Millar.

“In the backyard, you’ve been doing that,” Millar said. “It all comes back to it being a full team. There are certain teams that just have that special feeling. We weren’t the best players, but we were the best team.”

Lackey won the World Series in 2002 with the Angles and against in 2013 with Boston. He helped the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years in 2016, going 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and winning the championship-clinching game.

"We got home (to Chicago) and there were fire tricks on the tarmac shootings after in the air,” Lackey said. “It was pretty cool. I had a couple cops look at me and say, ‘You can do whatever the heck you want.’”

Comments