Baseball

Los Angeles Dodgers select McHenry native Bobby Miller with 29th pick in MLB draft

The Los Angeles Dodgers selected McHenry native Bobby Miller with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft Wednesday night.

Miller is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-handed pitcher at Louisville. He spent draft night in Louisville, watching with his teammates and his family.

His selection fulfills a lifelong dream for Miller, who was a top pitcher for the McHenry Warriors in high school. Miller attended McHenry West and was the 2017 Northwest Herald Baseball Player of the Year. The Baltimore Orioles drafted Miller out of high school with a selection in the 38th round, but Miller elected to attend Louisville instead.

He helped Louisville reach the College World Series in 2019, pitching a one-hitter to clinch a trip to Omaha.

Miller throws a fastball in the mid-90s, and touched as high as 99 mph earlier this year. He started four games for No. 2-ranked Louisville before the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miller’s success at Louisville skyrocketed him up the draft board this year, with many pundits predicting he might go in the first round Wednesday. According to the MLB’s assigned draft values, a selection at No. 29 overall is worth a signing bonus of about $2.4 million.

Miller watched the draft from the “Omaha Room” at the Louisville baseball facility. The team’s film room features a mural of the College World Series in Omaha. On Wednesday, the Omaha Room belonged to Los Angeles. Miller’s Louisville teammate Reid Detmers, a starting pitcher from the Springfield area, was selected by the Los Angeles Angels with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft on Wednesday.

Back home in McHenry, the McHenry baseball coaches watched the draft together in a small gathering at head coach Brian Rockweiler’s house. Pitching coach Zach Badgley remains close with Miller and said the Dodgers were one of Miller’s favorite potential landing spots.

“His thing the whole time, we’ve been talking about it since April, he wanted to be a Dodger,” Badgley said. “His favorite pitcher is [the Dodger’s] Walker Buehler, and he’s seen some scouts compare him to Buehler. When the Dodgers came up, it just seemed right.”

Badgley said Miller admires the way the Dodgers prepare their pitchers for the big leagues.

Miller becomes the second McHenry County native selected in the first round of the MLB draft in as many years. He follows Cary native Quinn Priester, who the Pirates selected 18th overall out of Cary-Grove in the 2019 draft. Priester skipped an opportunity to play at TCU and turned pro directly out of high school.

If Miller and the Dodgers can come to a contract agreement, it remains to be seen where Miller might be sent in their minor league system – or if there will even be a minor league season this summer. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the baseball season into uncertainty.

As of Wednesday, even the major league players and owners had yet to come to an agreement on how or when to return to play. The draft was held via video conference Wednesday. Teams held interviews with prospects via video conference this spring as well.

Still, Wednesday was a night of celebration for Miller and the McHenry baseball community. Miller is one step closer to one day wearing Dodger blue in the big leagues.

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