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Baseball needs more stories like journeyman Trever Miller's

JUPITER, Fla. -- There are bad guys in baseball, there are good guys in baseball and there are great guys in baseball.

Then there are the special guys -- the ones you are required, by law, to root for regardless of team loyalties.

That's Trever Miller.

Maybe you have seen Miller, maybe you haven't. The St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher is one of thousands, the latest in a never-ending line of left-handed relief specialists who travel from team with all the fanfare of a half-eaten bag of sunflower seeds. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Miller -- who sports a short black beard and no other especially unique features -- blends in to the backdrop of baseball life. He is neither flashy nor demanding, ornery nor outrageous. He arrives, he pitches, he leaves.

About to enter his 13th big league season, Miller is playing for his seventh franchise, not counting two separate stints in Tampa and Houston. He's enjoyed some absolutely heinous seasons (in 2000 he compiled a 10.47 ERA over 16 games) and some absolutely fantastic ones (a 2.06 ERA in 70 games with the 2009 Cards).

None of it really matters.

Miller wants to win. Desires to win. Hopes desperately to win. But, come day's end, he can deal with losing, because -- unlike the majority of his fellow players -- Miller seems to get the ludicrousness of making millions of dollars to toss a round object across a white dish. "I'm blessed to have been able to do this for so long," he says with a shrug. "I know how unique of an opportunity it's been."

Because the Cardinals' clubhouse is filled with men like Albert Pujols Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter, Miller is rarely hounded for autographs or pestered for interviews. His story is a relatively obscure one.

Which, for him, is ideal.

Which, for us, is a shame.

We need more Trever Millers.

In the summer of 2004, Trever's wife, Pari, gave birth to the couple's third child, a daughter named Grace. She was born with two holes in her heart and a chromosome disorder that, because of its rare nature, has no actual name. Though she turns 7 in June, Grace Miller weighs less than 40 pounds. She neither walks nor speaks, and uses a tube to help her breathe and another one to provide nourishment. She is the only child in America to ever live beyond a year's age with the condition.

When his daughter was born, Miller didn't know how to react. Baseball is a clichéd world, and the clichéd response is to explain how you love your child no matter what and embrace her for who she is and trust that God will ...

Cliché is rarely reality.

Throughout much of her husband's career, Pari took to packing a Bible in his suitcase. Upon reaching a hotel, Trever would grab the book, read some passages, then feel fulfilled. One day in 2004, not long after Grace arrived, he took the Bible and hurled it against a wall. He also started drinking heavily to numb the pain and escape the reality.

"Having a chronically ill handicapped child can engulf you if you really let it," Pari told the Palm Beach Post last year. "At some point with Grace, all of her ordeals and problems you ultimately have to work out your feelings yourself."

Some do so via prayer. Others via therapy. Trever Miller rediscovered his faith and became, of all things, a distance runner.

On the morning following a particularly heavy night of drinking, Miller laced up his sneakers and went out for a two-mile trot. The he went out for another trot. And another trot. On January 13, 2008, he completed the Walt Disney World Marathon, finishing in 4 hours, 27 minutes and 27 seconds. Upon returning to his Land O' Lakes, Fla., home, he hung the medal around Grace's bedpost. "So hard, so rewarding," he says. "The marathon is an amazing thing to do, not just physically but mentally. It takes so much out of you, but it also lets you get rid of a lot of anguish."

Miller has now completed three full marathons and two half-marathons. He's also done three triathlons, and toys with the idea of, post-baseball, taking a shot at an Ironman. "I can't explain how much running has given me," he says. "It's easy to say it's just helped me deal with some trying times. But it's more than that. It's trimmed me down, it's given me strength, it's kept me very sane."

Once again, Miller wants to win, wants to capture a World Series title before retiring his increasingly aged left arm. But if he doesn't, he'll leave the game satisfied and content.

There are more important things than baseball.

There's life.

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