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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
“Don’t let us win tonight.”
If you’re any sort of Boston sports fan or just love the history-making moments of baseball, you know that Kevin Millar’s above quote came at a strange moment in the 2004 ALCS. On the heels of the heartbreaking game seven loss to the Yankees in 2003’s ALCS, they were yet again on the heels of being beaten by their bitter rivals, this time in a sweep. The immediate future looked grim as it had for the last 86 seasons at Fenway Park, but that didn’t stop a feisty Millar from doing anything in his power to pop off to the pregame media gaggle and rile up the troops. I caught up with Kevin on the all-important 19th hole at the Invited Celebrity Classic last week to talk golf, his thoughts on the current state of baseball, and reminisce like any two Red Sox fans would about beating the Yankees – naturally.
“That quote was the truth. Derek Lowe was pitching tonight (game 4) and it looked good on paper. Then we got Pedro (game 5) then Schilling (game 6)…then anything can happen in game seven.”
He wasn’t lying. Millar’s popping off turned out to be a Nostradamus-like prediction and a moment that catapulted the Red Sox to a historic comeback, a 4-3 ALCS win over the Yankees, and then the eventual breaking of the Red Sox curse with the World Series win.
“It was a special group of guys, and I feel like if you weren’t even a Red Sox or Yankees fan at that time it was easy to root for us cause we’re like normal guys”
Life is still just as normal and awesome for the former big leaguer who coined the “Cowboy Up” moniker in Boston all those years ago. Post-retirement, life moves a bit slower than a big-league fastball now for him and his family in Austin. Texas. Millar is a full-time baseball dad in the Lone Star state, and he stays keyed into MLB baseball 24/7 through his MLB Network gig at “Intentional Talk.” Since the dawn of the new season, there have been lots to talk about as baseball’s new rules have come into effect this season. So what does Millar make up of the sped-up game for hitters?
“Now it’s even more on the hitters to be ready to compete. The greats like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, they watch the film in advance and know what to expect the defense to look like. Hitters have to be ready now more than ever for anything in the box.”
As for the other side of the clock, Millar predictably has a bit less sympathy there. “If you’re taking your sweet time on the mound, that won’t fly anymore. They have to be ready just like us – pick up the pace! Something we struggle with on the golf course too.”
One new rule that Millar is a fan of is the runner on second base to start the 10th inning, moved up from previous iterations in extra innings rules adjustments.
“I love it. There’s more outcomes, and seeing how teams will play it out and strategize will bring a little more excitement to extra innings.”
Throughout his 12 seasons in the bigs and years of commentating after his playing days ended, Millar has always had an eye for the finer mechanics of the baseball swing. So when he gets the opportunity to play golf with the legends of the PGA Tour Champions and talk shop, he doesn’t miss it. Millar was paired with three-time PGA Tour winner Jeff Maggert on the day we met, and the tee box conversations centered more around mechanics of the swing instead of world series glory or hitting a cutter from Mariano Rivera.
“Guys like Jeff (Maggert) work inside the golf ball…we’re taught (in baseball) to take the knob of the bat to the baseball. It’s the same thing with the golf swing. The knob of the club comes through and then the barrel at impact. There’s so many similarities.”
These days, Millar still plays as a single-digit handicap out of Austin and is a full-time shuttle to and from baseball games for his four kids. Days off are spent in their boat on Lake Austin doing the coolest watersport of the moment.
“The new thing for the kids is surfing. Wakeboarding used to be cool, but now they love their surfboards.”
As for Millar’s 19th hole order, it’s a classic: “I’m old school, I’m going with a burger and fries after golf. For a cocktail, it’s a crown and seven.”
Cowboy Up indeed!
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What is a baseball survivor pool?
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