READING, Pa. — Felix Doubront, who started here Thursday night, could see Fenway Park sometime this year.

After tonight, the Red Sox will roll out pitching prospects Kyle Weiland, Stephen Fife and Casey Kelly.

As for tonight, the Sea Dogs will start Ryne Miller.

Look on the Red Sox prospect list. He’s not there.

A high draft pick? Nope. He wasn’t drafted.

At least he starred on his high school team, right?

Didn’t happen. He quit.

Miller is surprised as anyone that he’s ended up as a pro baseball pitcher. And while he’s relatively unknown, Miller is moving up the ranks, shown by his inclusion in Portland’s starting rotation.

Pretty good for a player who is honest about his past, saying “I wasn’t dedicated at all.”

When it came to baseball, Miller considered it just another sport. He already had a passion — football.

Miller quarterbacked the Permian High Panthers in Odessa, Texas. Maybe you had heard of the Panthers. They were the inspiration behind the book and movie, “Friday Night Lights.”

When Miller’s family moved before his senior year, he didn’t mind. “There were more (college) scouts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

Miller, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds at the time, was being recruited. But most college coaches were honest with him. They told Miller he probably would be moved to another position, likely tight end.

Only the University of Louisiana at Monroe told Miller he could play quarterback.

“They said I had a chance to start as a freshman,” Miller said.

But when Miller reported, he was moved to tight end.

“I didn’t care to play tight end so I quit,” Miller said.

Miller is the first to admit that his attitude wasn’t the best.

“I stopped concentrating on school; partying too much,” Miller said. “I was academically suspended because my grades were so bad.”

Miller left school for a year, working as a groundskeeper at an apartment complex.

That year served as the beginning of a new attitude. Miller got a chance to walk on as a baseball pitcher for a two-year school, Weatherford College.

He hadn’t played baseball since his junior year of high school — he quit as a senior because he had a football scholarship.

At Weatherford, Miller worked on his grades and his game, earning a scholarship.

That summer, in 2007, Miller wanted to pitch in the Texas Collegiate League but there were no openings. He attended a tryout and landed on the Wichita Falls Roughnecks.

Miller pitched well enough to earn a spot in the All-Star game. Scouts were there and Miller impressed.

“The day after the All-Star game I was in Florida, pitching for the Red Sox (in the Gulf Coast League),” Miller said.

Miller recorded a 1.88 ERA and was moved to Lowell.

But he still needed to mature. He showed up in 2008 at more than 250 pounds.

“I wasn’t ready for baseball. I wasn’t dedicated at all. I just didn’t care,” Miller said. “I got hurt in spring training, then went up to (Class A) Greenville and did terrible.”

After a 5.68 ERA in 29 games, Miller called his agent. What could he do? A personal trainer was hired. Miller worked out every day and reported to spring training in 2008 at 214 pounds.

Sent to advanced Class A Salem, Miller recorded a 2.77 ERA and was sent to Portland. His fastball in the low 90’s kept working, as did his curve. Miller eventually became a starter.

This past offseason, Miller was one of the 12 prospects invited to the exclusive Red Sox Rookie Camp.

Miller, with his fastball, curve and developing change-up, is ready for his 2010 debut tonight. He’s in shape, dedicated and ready to jump onto that prospect list.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]