Brad Mills is a rarity among professional baseball players, he has a degree in civil engineering. Many pro baseball players are drafted from high school or after their junior year of college and most don't have a degree. As Mills notes below many of those players who stay in school to complete their fourth year take a less challenging degree to compensate for the demands and the travel required for playing in a top flight baseball program. Mills has made a very good start to his pro career and is among the Blue Jays top 30 prospects. Mills has a 3.79 ERA in seven starts for Lansing, he has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and has more strikeouts than innings pitched, both positive signs.
BB: Were you drafted coming out of high school?
BM: No, not at all.
BB: So you were drafted twice, both times by the Jays. Were you tempted the first time you were drafted?
BM: A little bit but I was really set on finishing school so in the end it was a good decision to go back and finish my senior year there.
BB: Was that you who wanted to finish school or your family?
BM: No, it was me. When I went to college I wasn't recruited to go play ball at college at all. I went there for school and so once I got there I wanted to get it over with and then set out on this next phase.
BB: What degree did you do?
BM: Civil engineering.
BB: Engineering, with the labs and the tutorials, that is a lot of work.
BM: It is, it was. I had some good friends that helped me out and who were real sympathetic to my situation with baseball so it was good to have some study buddies like that.
BB: You must have had no free time once baseball season started.
BM: I remember my freshman year, the very first time we travelled and the whole season, my grades took a hit because I just wasn't prepared for how much time I would be away from school. I got used to it though and made adjustments.
BB: I assume there wasn't many guys on your team taking those tougher degrees, was there?
BM: There was a couple but a lot of guys who when they are recruited for baseball, they just figured out their major secondarily.
BB: So when you were drafted as a senior you had no leverage with the Jays.
BM: I knew I was going to sign and the Jays treated me fairly I was happy.
BB: Did you know the Jays were going to pick you again?
BM: I did not. I was very happy, it obviously shows they like me, so I was happy but it was a surprise.
BB: Last season you were injured mid-year was it a back injury?
BM: Yes, I actually got hurt the last month of my college season and I got a cortisone shot to help me pitch through the playoffs but then when I signed within the first couple of weeks of getting to short season it flared up again and I had to take some time off to get it better.
BB: No surgery though?
BM: No, I think it was a pulled muscle they never really diagnosed it correctly, some people thought it might have been a rib thing, some a muscle in the back. I took off some time for rest and it was fine.
BB: were you able to pitch in the instructional league?
BM: No I wasn't. I was able to do a throwing program and get used to it.
BB: You did get a couple of starts in 2007 to get a feel for it.
BM: I did get to throw about twenty innings in Auburn but more importantly I got to get used to the lifestyle so when I got here it wasn't a new thing with travel and some of the long nights you have and everything so that was good from last year.
BB: What were your goals coming into 2008?
BM: To make every start, to stay healthy. As far as on-field goals I didn't have many I felt if I just kept working that stuff would take care of itself but I feel if I stay on the field and make all my starts this year it will be a very productive season. That's goal number one.
BB: Are you working on any particular pitches?
BM: They are trying to teach me a cutter right now, I never really had thrown anything like that, just fastball, curveball, change so I am trying to add a fourth pitch in there but it is real early yet. I have only been trying it for a week now so it will probably be a couple of months before I'll get it down.
BB: Did you expect to come to Lansing?
BM: I just heard that most of the college guys were sent here and I knew there were a bunch of pitchers in the same situation so I expected to come here and it's been great.
BB: Have you pitched in the cold weather before?
BM: Not really, there was one time in college we were up in Washington (State) and it was pretty cold but nothing like this. A couple of weeks ago we were in Iowa and it was snowing when I was on the mound.
BB: Your motion has been described as herky-jerky and you hide the ball well is that something you try and do?
BM: Not really, I kinda found it in college, it wasn't that way in high school, it was a little smoother in high school but I found a rhythm in college and worked my way into the starters role there doing it. It kinda just works, I have toned it down a little bit if you believe that, it used to be even more crazy but it works well, I don't throw the ball real hard so it hides the ball well and I am able to be deceptive with that.
BB: There are probably not that many college graduates on baseball rosters or guys with advanced degrees. Have you felt that at all?
BM: Maybe a little bit. If anything it gives me peace of mind being here, I don't really have to press myself, I can just let it happen, be relaxed, and work on my game here because I know that I don't have to make it to the big leagues to be OK in life. So I can concentrate on this and give it my all because I know there is something waiting if it doesn't work out.
Batter's Box would like to thank Brad Mills for talking with us.