SENIOR PROFILE: Miller finds refuge during difficult time

Submitted photoSummers County senior Tyler Miller hit .367 for the Bobcats last season and was set to help lead a young team in 2020 before all spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tyler Miller plans to attend Marshall next fall and major in natural resources and management. He has his sights set on becoming an officer with the Division of Natural Resources.

Seems a logical career choice for an outdoors enthusiast such as himself.

"I'm all the time in the woods," Miller said. "I hunt, I fish. Anything outdoors, that's me."

Lately, Miller has been getting more in touch with nature than he envisioned. The COVID-19 pandemic that ultimately brought spring sports to a close has forced Miller and thousands like him off the baseball field.

He at least has been able to find solace in the woods.

"That's really the only thing keeping me busy right now," the Summers County senior said. "I've been journeying out a little bit. Between deer season and turkey season, and whenever the quarantine (started) and there was no hunting season, I didn't really know what to do. I would just go up in the woods and ride four-wheelers just for the heck of it. You know, just trying to make the day go by."

Outdoors usually has a different connotation for Miller this time of year. All things normal, he and the Bobcats would be three weeks away from sectional tournament time. Joining pitcher/infielder Dakota Mansfield as the only seniors, Miller was looking forward to leading a young team.

That won't happen now after the spring sports season was officially put to bed Tuesday by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. He isn't happy about it, but he has accepted the situation.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Miller said Monday. "You work all your years of high school just to play your senior year, probably the one you remember the most. I was really looking forward to this year. I've been working a lot for this year, so with all of this going on, it's hard."

This would have been his third year as a starter. The plan was to move him to center field after playing primarily in left and right, and the left-hander might even have seen time at first base.

"He's got pretty good speed and good range," said second-year Summers coach Joe Blankenship, who is also the Mayor of Hinton. "He makes good contact (at the plate). ... He doesn't hit with a lot of power. He's a gap hitter and doesn't strike out much. He's one of those that you could get anywhere in the lineup, at the top or down at the bottom. Anywhere to solidify your lineup."

Miller hit a solid .367 last year after getting off to a slow start. He tore the labrum in his right arm during football season and had offseason surgery. He didn't miss any time once baseball practice began and needed time to get to full strength.

Not hurting his throwing shoulder helped Miller get back sooner, he said.

"I really struggled the first few weeks," he said. "There was a lot of games in that short amount of time. I was scared, really, to use that arm. Playing outfield, sometimes I have to dive and that was always in the back of my mind. So until really sectionals and the end of the (regular season), that was all I could think about."

These are certainly trying times for athletes all over, but Miller has always been one to keep himself occupied. He has been a lifeguard at Wildwater Express in Hinton, coached tee-ball and travel basketball teams and is active in his church.

"I'm always trying to help out," Miller said. "I like to help people."

"You get a lot of kids that age that don't want to fool with younger kids," Blankenship said. "For instance, I've got a grandson that loves sports and all he wants to do is play ball. He loves Tyler to death, and Tyler will help him. He's just good to work with kids and within the community. He's just a good, all-American kid."

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