David Miller Wakes Up Manhattan Baseball

By Caroline McCarthy, Managing Editor & Sports Editor

Pinned to the wall of new head baseball coach David Miller’s office is a handwritten note reading “Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility” (O.A.R.) above “Blame, Excuses and Denial” (B.E.D.).  The first pointing up towards the word “victory” and the latter pointing downwards at the word “victim.” 

“I always talk about getting out of bed in the morning, and it’s not about actually getting out of bed, but it’s more about staying out of blame, excuses and denial,” Miller said. “If you have ownership, accountability and responsibility, you have won the day. But if you have blame, excuses and denial, you’re acting like a victim.”

This is one of the many empowering phrases Miller uses to incite excellence in his team, a tactic that has proven successful in the past. Before coming to Manhattan College, Miller earned the Coach of the Year title in the Atlantic 10 Conference while coaching at La Salle university in 2021, and again in the United East Conference while coaching at Penn State Abington in 2022. 

He has produced 15 all-conference players during his tenure and continuously produced winning seasons for these schools, something he hopes to continue at Manhattan College.  He does so through positive reinforcement, a mind over matter mentality and an emphasis on passion for the game. 

“My philosophy is to get these guys to love practice, that’s when all the hard stuff happens,” Miller said. “And if you can love practice when you’re out there, and you’re practicing as hard as you would play then that will slow the game down.”

Miller played collegiate baseball at Clemson University before becoming the 1995 first-round draft pick for the Cleveland Guardians (known as the Indians at the time) as a rising senior, which he calls the best and worst thing in his life. 

Playing alongside Hall of Famers like Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez gave Miller the opportunity to learn from the greats, but playing the same position also proved to be an obstacle for his own career.  

“I knew the journey was going to be hard,” Miller said. “I kept grinding and doing the best I could until the injury bug hit me and tore my hamstring in 1999.”

He lost out on the 2001 and 2002 seasons because of this injury. After an attempted comeback in 2003, Miller had to undergo another surgery later that year, knocking him out of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons. He retired from the Guardians in 2007. 

“I have absolutely no regrets in my career,” Miller said. “Just sometimes you wish you were drafted by the Reds or the Pittsburgh Pirates or somebody where your trip would’ve been a little easier to the big leagues.”

After retiring, Miller returned to college as a 37-year-old, which made him realize how he took his education for granted in college. Now, as a coach, his teams have had a 100% graduation rate. 

“I got my degree when I was 37 years old. I’ve been on a team that’s played the World Series, I’ve been in a college World Series, I’ve gotten every trophy you can imagine, but the thing that sits front and center in my office at home is my degree,” Miller said.

He shares he’s more hard on them academically as a coach to ensure they are prepared for the second half of life after baseball. 

“I want every one of these kids to have the dream of being a pro baseball player, but understanding that one day, baseball will end whether you’re 20, 22, 25, 30, 37…and then what? I want them to have something to fall back on,” Miller said. 

Miller had been chasing the dream for as long as he could remember. According to a family legend, two-year old Miller once interrupted a family get-together by “blowing up” a birthday cake using a gifted wiffle ball bat and ball set from his grandfather. 

“Now I find that to be one of those exaggerated stories over time,” he said with a chuckle. “But they said they all turned around to see what it was and then there’s this little two year old kid standing there with the bat. My grandfather took me outside and was throwing me balls and I was smacking them around. I’ve been playing ball ever since.”

Even after the end of his professional career, Miller continued playing in the professional slow pitch softball league, USSSA, alongside other amateur and retired professional players for five years. 

“It’s so much fun,” Miller said. “There’s so much strategy to it. And that’s the stuff I love, the strategy of the game.”

But it wasn’t just a love of baseball that drew him to Manhattan College. After marrying his wife Delores, who was the first girl Miller says he’s ever met, Miller re-found a faith he had lost, one that directly aligned with Manhattan College’s Lasallian mission. 

“Coming back (to his faith) and understanding that you truly believe God puts you where he wants you really hits home for me,” Miller said. 

He and his wife bought a house in Pennsylvania shortly before LaSalle’s baseball program was discontinued. Now, Miller stays in the Bronx Monday-Saturday to coach before making it home to PA for date night Saturday nights. 

While living in Pennsylvania, the Millers went on missions to Kensington Pennsylvania, to a place known as “Needle Park” to pray with the community. 

“I felt we could do more,” Miller said. “So I started to raise money, get clothing for the winter. We made 1,000 lunches and toiletry kits for women…it really just kinda of helped me realize I need to be more involved in doing better things.”

After getting friends involved, Miller’s initiative expanded to sweatshirts, jackets and donated expensive shoes like Yeezy’s and Jordans. Miller decided to sell the over 60 pairs of donated shoes to buy more sensible products for the community, including suits for interviews. 

Miller hopes to continue his charitable actions in the Bronx, and is actively looking for opportunities for himself and his team to volunteer. 

“My job is to build a baseball team, but I learned as a coach 20% of my job is baseball,” Miller said. “80% of my job is watching over these kids off the field, getting their grades, life after baseball, making sure they have opportunities for careers, making sure they go to class, staying out of trouble being, you know, relevant in that community.”