Miner thankful for father's guidance
Pitcher remembers childhood practices with dad
DETROIT -- Zach Miner will never forget the first words he received from his dad when he saw him in the hospital last summer.
Charlie Miner had suddenly been hospitalized with an aneurysm in his aorta. Zach Miner had left the Tigers to return home to Florida. It was not surprising to him that his dad was fighting through it. Charlie couldn't talk at that point, so he wrote on a pad for his family.
For Zach, he wrote three simple words: Get to work.
Zach, of course, wasn't going anywhere. Charlie Miner taught his son a lot about what it takes to be a baseball player. But Zach also learned a lot from him about what it takes to be a father.
"That was probably his first love, and it just happened to be mine, too," Zach said. "It wasn't a situation where he pushed -- I probably pushed him to go out there with me. Pretty much growing up as a kid, all I wanted to do was play baseball. I played other sports, too, but any free time I had, I wanted to take grounders or hit or something."
So day in and day out, the Miners would be out with gloves, a ball and a bat. Whether or not Charlie was tired, he'd be out there for his son.
"He threw a lot of batting practice to me growing up, and a lot of grounders," Zach recalled. "Obviously, he helped out with the pitching, too, but most of the times I remember was hitting and taking grounders. That's what I really enjoyed doing a lot growing up."
The irony of all that work isn't lost on him now.
"I guess he ended up wasting most of that," Zach joked, "because I ended up being a pitcher."
Their time together, of course, was never really a waste. His dad was his biggest fan in addition to his bullpen catcher and batting practice pitcher, but he was also someone who was there for him in good times and bad. Zach still remembers playing in an all-star tournament in Florida at age 13 and being roughed up in a game for a loss.
At that time, Zach remembers, baseball meant everything to him, and he took a defeat like that hard. His dad was there to remind him it was still just a game.
"He always had a good way," Zach said. "Even to this day, as big of a baseball fan as he is, you always hear people say, 'Aren't you proud of Zach? He's a Major Leaguer.' He always will tell them, 'No, I'm proud of him for the son he was and the father he is.'"
Everything that happened last year, from his dad's health scare to becoming a father for the first time, reinforced that point to Zach. After finally finding a home in the Tigers bullpen and working his way back from the disabled list, his career became secondary when his father was hospitalized in July. He left the team to be with his dad for a brief period, and he eventually followed his dad's orders and got back to work. Still, his heart was in Florida.
Several Tigers have memories of Yankee Stadium, especially after their postseason series there two seasons ago. For Zach, it's the place where he was able to talk to his dad on the phone and hear his voice for the first time since the scare. He was in the visitors' dugout after a win, having just held the lead, but it didn't matter.
"I'll always remember that," he said. "It's one of the things I remember from last year from that trip. I was able to talk to him in his room. I struck out four guys, and at that point, I couldn't even care about what I'd just done. It was just cool to be able to talk to him."
Not only is Charlie doing well, he'll travel up to Detroit to spend this Father's Day weekend with his son and 1-year-old grandson, Brady, before Zach heads to the West Coast with the team. Brady, as his father likes to point out, doesn't care whether his dad's ERA is up or whether he struck out the other team's cleanup man with runners in scoring position. He only cares that his dad is there.
With his own dad back, moving around and playing with his grandson, Zach knows the feeling.
"Especially when you're a kid growing up, what you do is a lot of times the most important things in the world to you," Zach said. "You don't really have that perspective. I think the older you get, you realize. I was thinking about it earlier when I was really struggling. As good of a year as I had last year, if I would've ended the season with a terrible ERA, as long as your family's healthy, I wouldn't have traded those seasons for anything in the world. Just getting my tail kicked and everybody's good, healthy, happy, I'd much rather have a season like that."
And as he watches his son bounce around, he's reminded of what he must have put his dad through.
"I remember I threw a ball through our neighbor's car window when I was 6 and we were playing," Zach said. "Threw it and shattered his car window. My dad made me go over there and explain to the guy what happened. I was just mortified. Once you're a parent, you realize, I'm sure in the back of my dad's mind, he's like, 'Aw, who cares? He's playing baseball.'"
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.