BY ED WRIGHT
Aug. 2, 2010, 1:15 p.m.
You can own a fully functional batting cage in your basement like Canton's Brittney Miller, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a good hitter.
What is necessary to becoming the top-flight slugger the 13-year-old Discovery Middle School eighth-grader-to-be has turned into is a high degree of dedication that makes you want to use the convenient cage on a regular basis.
"I go down there and hit every day," said Miller, who recorded a robust batting average of .487 with 33 RBI in 33 games for the NSA 12U Class A state champion Michigan Bulldogs fast-pitch softball team. "My dad feeds the balls into the pitching machine and I hit. I love it."
Miller followed the usual route of baseball- and softball-loving youngsters, playing T-ball when she was 6, coach pitch when she was 7 and kid pitch when she was 8.
"Then Brittney went from fast-pitch baseball to slow-pitch softball, and it was kind of boring for her because she was used to the faster pitching," said Bob Miller, Brittney's dad. "One day when we were up at Heritage, we saw the Thunderbirds fast-pitch team playing and it looked intriguing. The next year she tried out for the Plymouth-Canton Pride Stars and made the 10U team."
Miller excelled for the Pride Stars until this spring when she took her talents east to the St. Clair Shores-based Michigan Bulldogs, a team coached by Mark Nemitz, the father of star University of Michigan pitcher Nikki Nemitz.
"I saw a posting on M-Live that the Bulldogs had lost two players to injuries - one a broken ankle, another a broken wrist - and that they were looking for players," explained Bob Miller. "I contacted Mark Nemitz and he told me to bring Brittney out for a tryout.
"They liked what they saw and she joined the team the next week. We left the Pride on good terms; they understood. The Bulldogs play during the week against 14U teams, which really helps the players' develop."
Miller, a third baseman who can also pitch, started her career with the Bulldogs batting 10th, but soon worked her way up to the heart of the order.
In the NSA state title game June 27 in Eaton Rapids, the Bulldogs trailed the Michigan Athletics, 4-0, when Miller ripped a bases-clearing double over the left-center fielder's head.
"The team kind of fed off that hit," said Bob Miller. "She got up the next inning and hit an RBI double and they ended up winning the state championship game, 8-6."
The weekly hour-long drives to St. Clair Shores are not an issue for the Millers.
"It's worth it," said Bob Miller. "All the girls on the team get along great. They're like best friends. After games they go swimming and hang out. It's been a great experience."
Miller said she will play for the Bulldogs next year, too. In the spring of 2012, she'll be taking her advanced hitting skills to Plymouth High School.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com.