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Welcome to Dale Miller Field

It was a baseball Saturday at Mylan Park.

There were whoops from the dugout and smatterings of applause from the stands any time a center fielder chased down that shot that looked it was out of here.

There was that whooshed-out “Yes!” any time a wicked slider made a batter swing – then look twice, after it was all done.

And that collective, gasping “Oh!” each time a single stretched into a double, and then that double, amazingly, was willed into a triple – even if everybody was yelling for you to hold up.

Don’t forget the sonic signature: The omnipresent th-WOCK! of a bat – be it wood or aluminum – sending a seamed sphere into the outer reaches.

Just one field was empty, though.

And that’s because the people were giving Dale Miller a grand slam.

Legions of the Morgantown radio executive’s family, friends and business associates, along with his brothers and sisters in love of Mr. Doubleday’s sport, gave him an honor etched in limestone and bronze.

It was in the form of that 12,000-pound boulder quarried from the Greer Limestone Co., a big rock snagged for the benefit of a guy known as a rock star in regional baseball.

Affixed to the stone was a plaque and the words, “Dale Miller Field,” the now-forever name of the upper ball diamond in the park complex where Morgantown’s American Legion Post 2 plays its home games.

More on that. First, some backstory.

Dale Miller alongside his daughter Adreona Thichenor watches the video presentation during the field dedication on Saturday at Mylan Park.

It’s in the Cards (and college)

Miller, as said, is a baseball guy from way back: born in St. Louis, a kid in the late 1950s and a teenager in the 1960s, when the baseball Cardinals reigned.

Stan Musial.

Bob Gibson.

Lou Brock.

Orlando Cepeda.

The Cards were almost always in the race. And in the summer, Miller and his cousins were almost always racing to Sportman’s Park.

His grandfather lived just a few blocks over from the venerable stadium at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Dodier Street, and Miller, with his ear mashed to his transistor radio, would listen to the KMOX call of Jack Buck and Harry Carey – right up to the bottom the sixth inning.

“They’d let you in free during the seventh inning,” he said. “Off we’d go.”

He didn’t know what captivated him more: The game itself, or the word-pictures those classic announcers would paint through the speaker.

Miller was good third baseman for this legion team back home, but he found out he was a better radio guy.

That calling took him to Morgantown. And when he was busy building the network of the West Virginia Radio Corp., he was also building the stature of American Legion baseball.

He started coaching when his son, Christian starting playing, and he stayed after Christian graduated.

Miller worked on improving facilities and just making it cool. His players got their own walk-up music, a theme song of sorts, when they’d step into the batter’s box.

“I wasn’t thinking about my kids going to the Majors,” he said. “I was thinking about them going to college and graduating.”

Dale Miller looks over the field during the field dedication on Saturday at Mylan Park.

There’s the wind-up …

With the broadcaster trumpeting the cause, a move began to raise money to improve Mylan Park’s existing ballfields.

To date, some $170,000 has been raised, said Cliff Sutherland, a local businessman and events promoter who is also on the roster. To find out how you can contribute, send an email to Terri Howes, Mylan Park’s executive director:

It’s a team effort, Sutherland said.

Sometimes, however, he said, grinning, the team is only as good as its manager.

“Dale’s the guy who’s getting it done,” he said. “He’s just that person who gets in there and makes things happen.”

On Saturday night, Sutherland was helping get things done. He was one of the evening’s organizers.

Tony Caridi, who does the radio play-by-play for WVU sports, was the master of ceremonies and local entertainer Bobby Nicholas sang the national anthem.

People laughed at the one-liners Caridi and Miller played catch with – but the evening had a tinge of melancholy.

‘You should have gotten the Tommy John’

In January, Miller was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive disease which attacks the nervous system. It’s also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” named for the legendary Yankees baseball player who contracted the disease in 1939.

“It is what it is,” Miller said.

Because his family often employs gallows humor, he did have to laugh when he recounted the telephone conversation he had with one of his cousins back home who would run with him to Sportman’s Park for the seventh inning’s free admittance.

There’s another medical procedure out there named for another major league baseball player.

In 1974, journeyman Tommy John underwent a pioneering procedure involving a transplanted tendon to his shattered pitching arm.

There was a beat of silence, Miller remembered, as his cousin absorbed the enormity of his relative’s medical news.

“Then he said, ‘You should have gotten the Tommy John instead.’ I laughed. I wouldn’t have expected anything otherwise.”

In the meantime, Miller received something else Saturday evening that he wasn’t quite expecting: A standing ovation.

Everyone got an enthusiastic tour of the refurbished park bearing his name in return.

“You gotta see this fencing,” he said, striding up the bleachers.

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