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Miller is one of 'Big 26' for 2014
By Duane Good, EDITOR


Tanner Miller

In more than a decade of playing baseball, Tanner Miller certainly has been in his share of ‘‘big games.’’

One of the biggest will take place this weekend, as Miller will be part of the 2014 Big 26 Baseball Classic Friday through Sunday, July 18-20, at Metro Bank  Park in Harrisburg.

The second baseman and Upper Dauphin Area rising senior is one of 26 high school ballplayers representing Pennsylvania that will take on a similar all-star squad from Maryland in a three-game tournament. (See the inset for game times and ticket information).

Miller is the only player from the Sentinel’s coverage area – and one of nine from southcentral Pennsylvania – on the Keystone State’s roster.

‘‘I’m very happy to be playing with the best players from the state against the best from Maryland,’’ he said last week. ‘‘It’s a great opportunity to help me do what I want in the future – to play at the college level.’’

Now 17, Miller – a 2014 All-Sentinel Team honoree (June 24 issue) and a member of the UD Legion lineup – said he has played baseball for 13 years ‘‘and it’s become part of my life.

‘‘I enjoy the challenge of getting that next big hit, stolen base or run scored – the excitement of that big defensive stop, diving catch or double play,’’ he said. “I also enjoy the time spent on the field with my friends and teammates.’’

Organized and run by the New Cumberland-based Big 33 Scholarship Foundation, the Big 26 Classic was created in order to showcase the talents of Pennsylvania’s high school baseball players in much the same way that Big 33 does for gridiron starts, according to Dave Trimbur, the foundation’s executive director.

Players are selected through a two-round process during the spring. They do not practice together until they arrive Thursday, July 17 at Metro Bank, home field of the Harrisburg Senators minor-league ball club. All players, both  Pennsylvanians and Marylanders, lodge with local host families for the duration of the tournament.

Trimbur said the Big 26 specifically targets rising juniors and seniors, unlike the Big 33, which usually only features college-bound high school graduates.

‘‘We wanted to give kids more opportunities to be seen by college and Major League Baseball scouts and coaches,’’ he said. ‘‘It gives them a showcase for their skills that they may not normally have.’’

Miller first tried out for the team in 2013 as a UDA sophomore, at the suggestion of one of his coaches. Despite not being selected, he returned this year and earned a slot, despite what he called “a ton of people’’ trying out. He and his teammates will share playing time throughout the three-game series.

This will be Miller’s first time ever to play in an MLB-caliber ballpark. (The Senators are affiliated with the Washington Nationals.) He’s not only excited about that, but he’s looking forward to being cheered on by family and friends, as well as by his high school and Legion teammates.

‘‘Since I also play football, my coach is hoping to get some of my team members there,’’ he noted.

Now in its third year, interest in the Big 26 event has blossomed among players, scouts, coaches and fans, Trimbur noted.

‘‘It’s really taken off. Last year between 50 to 70 scouts or coaches attended and 26 of the 52 (combined Maryland and Pennsylvania players) received offers to go on to the next level,’’ he said.

In fact, interest has grown to the point where an event known as the Keystone Klash – scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 9 in State College – has been organized for players who didn’t make the final Big 26 cut but who deserve a showcase of their own, according to Trimbur. Also, a series of  Rising Stars tournaments for Little League-level players is held throughout the spring and summer. (The next event is scheduled for the last weekend of July.)

In addition to meeting one another this Thursday, Miller and his Pennsylvania teammates will meet their ‘‘buddies,’’ special-needs children who will participate with them in events during the tournament. Each child will wear a jersey similar to the player with whom they are paired.

While this is Miller’s last year of eligibility for Big 26, he hopes other area players will try out in the future.

‘‘We always hear about how the Tri-Valley League isn’t supposed to be as good, but I feel that there is a lot of good talent in this area and you never know what you’re capable of until you take the opportunity to show your skills,’’ he said.

 


Game Schedule, Ticket Purchases

The Big 26 Baseball Classic will feature games scheduled for Friday, July 18 at 7:05 p.m.; Saturday, July 19 at 1:35 p.m.; and Sunday, July 20, again at 1:35 p.m. All games are at Metro Bank Park on Harrisburg’s City Island.

For ticket information – as well as information on the Rising Stars tournament and the upcoming Keystone Klash – visit big26.org



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