Jim Miller had the time of life Friday at the World
The WBC super fan has attended every game at Citizen Field in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch before Japans 8-5 victory over Team USA on Friday afternoon.
It was a complete honour, said Miller. I never really expected it and its something Ill remember for a long time.
Miller was just sad his father Dirk Miller was unable to witness him tossing the ball to Team USA catcher Mychal Harrington. The 86-year-old is in a rehab facility learning to adjust to life in a wheelchair after taking a fall in January.
I told him and he said he was real proud and wished he couldve been here, said Miller. He can only spend so many hours at one time in the wheelchair.
Miller said he would like to get his dad out Sunday afternoon, and possibly to one of Thursdays playoff games if hes up to it.
Jim Swanson, co-organizer of the WBC, said they have numerous ways to honour their sponsors and volunteers but were looking for a way to give back to the fans who have supported the tournament since it came to Prince George in 2009.
We have a lot of fans who have been here for every game and cant wait for the next one, said Swanson. Jims been one of our super fans, we have a lot of them, and we appreciate them, without the people coming out and buying tickets and enjoying the concessions and all those things we dont have a tournament here.
Millers passion for baseball began during childhood, as his parents were heavily involved in the Prince George ball community after the family moved west from Lashburn, Sask., when he was seven. Miller recalls spending every summer at Freeman Little League Field tossing the ball around with friends.
Balls been my whole life, said Miller. Ive done everything you can think of from grounds crew, playing, coaching and raking.
He respects the calibre of play the teams bring to the WBC, though his favourite team, the Bahamas, wasnt always the most talented on the field. The Bahamas earned only one win, against the Beijing Tigers in 2011, in its two years at the WBC.
Theyre infectious, said Miller. Theyre the kind of people that youre listening to and watching and talking to. Theyre very colourful, not the most talented, but my favourite.
As a tribute to his old Bahaman friends, Miller said he wore the T-shirt they gave him, in 2011 after he treated them to some adult beverages after their win, when he threw out the first pitch Friday.
Miller said he still keeps in contact with a couple of the Bahamas players and they called him to let him know they would be unable to make the 2013 tournament, due to lack of players and funds. But the players arent the only friends Miller has made.
Its not only the game on the field, its the venue itself here with the people in it and the people you meet and the people you talk to and the people that appreciate the different things about the sport, said Miller. You have something in common with people youve never met before.
Despite not getting to visit with his Bahamas friends, Miller said hes impressed with the ball being played this year by Japan, Team USA, Chinese Taipei and especially Cuba, but Canada isnt playing as good as he believes they could be. Miller said he tries to keep track of the players who play in the WBC to see where their careers take them.
The Japanese and the Taipei teams have so much respect for the sport with the way that they bow to people and the way that their hats come off in certain situations and respect for the sport itself, said Miller. These are things that are in my opinion paramount to the total respect for the sport itself.
He said hes been asked about volunteering or doing something to help put on the WBC, but believes in the job he does now too much to say yes.
Ive done everything you can think of, said Miller. Now what Im going to do is one of the most important things for the sport - Im going to pay my money and come and watch, sit back and enjoy it.