Sunday’s no hitter by Alec Mills of the Chicago Cubs really caught my eye for a lot of reasons. I watched his debut as a Cub a couple of years ago against the Reds and I remember thinking the kid was fun to watch.
He doesn’t have the explosive fast ball or “the stuff” that scouts drool over nowadays, but he can pitch. That aside, his connection to UT-Martin was what first caught my eye. I covered our Lady Patriots softball team a few years back that featured two future UT-M Lady Skyhawks — Jessie Douglas and Gracyn McBride — and a host of other talented young women. They were a formidable group. UT-M was also Pat Summitt’s alma mater and no classier a person ever stalked the sidelines of a basketball court.
And finally, in this age of COVID-19 and all the political nonsense that pro sports has seemingly embraced, baseball, with all of its shortcomings, still owns my heart.
Now back to Mills. Mills hails from Cunningham, Tennessee. Cunningham is about 10 miles from Clarksville and is “a wide spot in the road.” Mills was a walk-on at UT-M and had to convince his coaches he could pitch at the college level.
Mills went on to become their lockdown closer and eventual staff ace his senior year. Again he ran up against the stereotypes and was selected in the 22nd round of baseball’s draft in 2016 by the Royals. He was traded to the Cubs in February 2017 and from what I’ve seen of him, he is gonna be around a while.
Mills just seems to be a “good ol’ country boy” and is obviously well liked by all his teammates. That was evidenced by Gold Glove-winning right fielder Jason Heyward’s comment to his manager when asked about coming out of Sunday’s rout of the Brewers. “J. Hey” told manager David Ross that he would rather stay in the game and help Mills get the no-no.
Says a lot about the character of them both. Way to go “Millsy.”