By David Willis
The second time around, Nashua felt like the right place for Rick Miller.
"The Pride first contacted me about 10 years ago when they were just starting up again," remembered Miller. "But, back then, it didn't seem like the right time for me. But this time they contacted me to see if I was available, and it just felt like the right time."
Tomorrow night, the former Red Sox outfielder will kick off his first season as manager of the Pride when they open their season against the Brockton Rox at Holman Stadium.
"I'm looking forward to beginning the season," he said. "We only had 12 days of spring training to get ready. But it seems to have worked out fine."
Despite entering his first season as a manager, Miller knows a little something about preparing for a baseball season. After all, he spent 15 seasons in the major leagues as an outfielder.
After starring at Michigan State, Miller was selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 1969 draft. He reached the majors in 1971 and spent all or part of seven seasons in Boston, playing in 629 regular season games. He also appeared in three games in the historic 1975 World Series, when the Red Sox fell to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games.
Following the 1977 season, Miller signed with the then-California Angels. In 1978, the outfielder won a Golden Glove, along with former Red Sox teammates Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans. In 1979 he put together his best offensive season, hitting .293 with 28 RBIs and 60 runs. Be he found himself missing his former home.
"California was a great place for weather," he said. "But the fans there weren't as rabid as Boston fans. It was like they were going to a movie. ... After the (1980) season (then Angels general manager and future Red Sox GM) Mike Port told me I was traded. I had to ask him where I was traded, he told me Boston and I just said 'All right!'"
Miller started for much of his final five seasons. He also earned a reputation as a go-to pinch hitter, a skill he attributed to his ability to play through the pressure of Boston.
"I was able to focus on the job at hand," he said. "I saw a lot of players that signed with the Red Sox or Yankees and couldn't handle the pressure. It takes the right guy to do it. It's a lot more pressure to play in Boston, and I feel like I had the makeup to handle it. "
In 1,482 career major league games, Miller compiled 1,046 hits, 552 runs and a .269 career average.
After retiring, Miller first worked as a financial advisor for professional athletes. In 1992 he spent one season as the hitting, outfield and first base coach for the San Jose Giants, the single-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
"I really enjoyed working with the players and I learned a lot," he said, "But my son was young then and I didn't want to be out in California away from him. The tough thing about the minors is you never know where you will be the next season."
Miller returned to New Hampshire and opened the Rick Miller XSOX Baseball School. He also spent 11 years (1996-2006) as an assistant coach at Colby-Sawyer College.
But, two years ago, Miller moved to Florida. So he was surprised to receive the call from the Pride.
"I'm not sure how they got in touch with me," he said. "I met with the owner and we were on the same wavelength. I thought about it for a while and talked to a few people in my life. I made the decision that this would be a good move in my life."
Miller replaces long-time Pride coach and former Red Sox teammate Butch Hobson. Known for his fiery demeanor, Hobson complied a 508-456 record in eight years as manager, including the Can-Am League title last year. In 1980, Hobson was part of the deal that the Red Sox sent to California to require Miller.
Pride at a glance
Established: 1998 (as Nashua Pride)
League: Can-Am League
Season: 94 games (47 home, 47 away)
Home ballpark: Holman Stadium (capacity 4,375)
Where: 67 Amherst Street, Nashua, N.H., 03064
Tickets: $10 club, $8 box, $7 upper reserved
Web site: www.nashuapride.com
2007 record: 50-43
Opener: Tomorrow host Brockton Rox, 7:05 p.m.
Manager: Rick Miller (First year)
Key returning players: RHP Rich Garces (6-4, 4.42 ERA, 17 saves); 1B Bryan Duplissie (.256, 17 HR, 59 RBI); C Luis Rodriguez (.281, 3 HR, 39 RBI); RHP Hideki Nagasaka (10-1, 2.94 ERA, 89 Ks).
Odds and ends: Long-time manager Butch Hobson left to manage the Southern Maine Blue Crabs, a member of the Atlantic League. ... Hobson and Rick Miller played together for three seasons with the Red Sox (1975-77) and were traded for one another in 1980. ... The Pride won the Can-Am League in its second year as a member. ... They are the only team to win a Cam-Am title and an Atlantic League title (2002).