Remembering a friend
In this weekend of remembrance, I want to take some time to remember a friend and teammate of mine.
Chad Miller, a former multi-sport athlete at Naugatuck High School, passed away far too early at the age of 30 on Sunday.
I was lucky to play with Chad on three baseball teams growing up, as well as three years together on the Z&A Insurance basketball team of the Naugatuck Basketball Association.
Chad was as good a teammate you could ask for, always having the back of his fellow players, even to a fault, which may have led the occasional technical foul or two on the basketball floor.
One instance that comes to memory was a time I got thrown to the floor driving to the basket. I didn’t think much of it as I got off the floor, but as I walked to the foul line, he whispered three simple words to me: “I got this.” Going back on defense (I probably missed the free throws, can’t remember), the player that fouled me found a similar fate as he ended up on the ground, courtesy of Chad.
Chad’s message was clear that no one was going to mess with his people. Needless to say, driving to the basket the rest of that night was met with little physical resistance.
Chad also played baseball and football at Naugatuck, but it was the baseball field where he excelled at best.
For those unfamiliar with the fields in Naugatuck, they are very friendly for left-handed hitters and a pain in the you-know-what for righties. At Rotary Field, where many amateur games are held, it’s 279 feet down the right field line and an obscene 347 to left (it’s 318 feet to left at Yankee Stadium).
That never deterred Chad, who took those dimensions as a challenge. In 17 years of playing and attending games at Rotary, he is the only right-handed hitter I’ve seen go deep there, hitting multiple bombs over that left field fence.
Fittingly, in 2010, he received honorable mention on the 2000s all-decade for Naugatuck High School, despite playing only one season (2000) in that decade for the team. Talk about an impact.
His attitude on the field was always positive, which undoubtedly played a big role in his success. While players like myself may have been moping around if we were down 12-1, he was plotting in the dugout how we were going to come back, even down to the final out.
He smoothly transitioned into coaching, and luckily for me, I was able to catch up with him when he was coaching against my brother’s team in the Naugatuck Babe Ruth League a few years back.
One great story is how he mentored my brother’s friend. This kid just started playing baseball at the age of 13 when he joined the team, a very late age to start playing the game and a near impossible task to catch up to the level of your peers.
There are some coaches who would get frustrated by this, just seeing the kid as a road block to victory. Chad, though, took this player aside and worked endlessly with him, teaching every facet of the game.
That kid not only fit in on his Babe Ruth team, but went on to play for his high school team as well.
It's caring and loyalty like that is what I’ll remember most about Chad. Even though he was only with us for 30 years, his impact was too big to measure.
He will certainly be missed.