For the past 3 years, Josh Miller has been volunteering with MTAG. He has led and participated in projects that have taken him to Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama where he helped facilitate baseball field renovations, administered clinics and donated equipment to schools and organizations.
Josh initially became involved with MTAG after playing on a baseball team coached by MTAG’s founder, Marshall Murray. Marshall became a mentor to Josh and the two developed a strong bond that is highlighted by the progress of MTAG. Describing this life-changing experience, Josh said, “Marshall’s philosophy of using your God-given abilities as a way to positively influence communities struck a chord with me. I admired his ability to foster growth within people by challenging them and putting them in situations that they wouldn't normally experience.” Josh continues, “MTAG has given me a purpose after baseball; I am able to use my experience as a player to help influence people in different communities throughout the world which has been much more satisfying and longer lasting that my playing career.”
In the Miller household, baseball certainly runs in the family. Josh’s older brother, Michael Miller, was drafted in the 9th round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2012 draft. He made his MLB debut with the Red Sox on June 27, 2016, against the Tampa Bay Rays. “Michael has always been my hero, and I admire him for making his dreams come true by playing in the Major Leagues. But, since I have been involved with MTAG I have searched for opportunities to get my brother involved,” Josh said.
Josh found this opportunity at a school in Guadalupe, California that had a dilapidated baseball field and after further investigation found out that there were no baseball programs in the town. Guadalupe is a migrant-worker, agricultural town just south of San Luis Obispo. Josh explained, “They don't have youth sports in the city. If they want to play they have to go to a neighboring community which is difficult for a lot of the families. Not only financially, but finding time to make the commute to go to practice or games when they are working 6 days a week is challenging.”
Josh immediately enlisted the support of his brother Michael to solve this problem for the town of Guadalupe. Michael said, “I have always been a fan of MTAG, I was excited my brother and I could do a project together.” The two devised a plan to reconstruct the baseball field enlisting the support of locals, businesses and school board supervisors. After long days of petitioning and fundraising, the Miller brothers compiled a team of volunteers to lead the project that included Marshall and Sean Peters, a recent graduate and baseball player at the University of California. The group was able to pitch their ideas to Paul Adler, Phillips 66 Community affairs and relations manager, who sponsored the project. Also, CNN was involved with the project as a film crew was with the MTAG team the entire week following and documenting the story.
The team of four spent the entire week immersed in the community. The primary goal of the project was the restoration of the school baseball field. The long days required hard work including spreading truckloads of dirt, followed by endless hours on a tractor leveling the diamond. Other smaller projects were constructing benches, putting in bases, fixing fences, and painting the backstop. Although there was a lot of work, the group found time to connect with the community in other ways. One day they were up before sunrise to pick strawberries with the locals at a farm. Josh said, “This is something that MTAG takes pride in. Helping out other people in the community helps us build relationships and shows people that we are invested in the community.” Michael also leveraged his Major League status speaking at school assemblies and classrooms, promoting baseball and offering words of encouragement to the wide-eyed children.
When reflecting on his experience, Michael said, “It’s really fulfilling to be able to achieve my childhood dream of playing in the MLB, but being able to use that platform to get in front of hundreds of kids is what makes MTAG special. My story is important for me to share because I'm not the biggest guy, so for kids to see that someone who looks like your average Joe walking down the street can achieve their dreams is important. Getting the point across that character is what takes you where you want to be is good for kids to hear. Hearing the importance of respect, determination, hard work, and working with others, everything teachers and parents tell their kids, but hearing it from another source, helps bring it home.”
At week's end and successful completion of the field restoration, the group partnered with the Cal Poly Baseball team to offer a free clinic to the kids of Guadalupe. Over 100 people were at the event which has sparked the town’s interest of playing baseball. The Miller brothers continue to frequent the community once a week offering instruction and continuing to develop baseball in Guadalupe.