Going, Going, Gone: One Last Ride for These Boys of Summer​​

Updated: May 19

By Alex Miller


2022 Senior Class. R to L back: Betances, May, O’Rourke, Miller, Doskoez. Front R to L: Vera, Shea. (Photo by Emerson Parks)

It’s been 11 years since I first stepped foot on a baseball field, encouraged by a childhood friend that it would be fun to play. He was right, and for the spring and fall every year since, baseball was all I did. Swinging a bat and throwing a ball seemed so simple then, trying to emulate my heroes; Derek Jeter or Josh Becket and having fun only a child could have while playing. My whole life has happened between 2009 and 2022, and right beside me the whole way was baseball.


Just like it’s said in “Field of Dreams,” the game of baseball has always stayed right where it is, no matter what has gone on in my life. Once I got to the field, and smelled the grass, and felt the crunch of the dirt under my feet, I could let life go.


This school year, my final one, was my hardest year of baseball. As a pitcher, throwing comes with the danger of injuries from overuse. After pitching all summer on Long Island in 2021, I developed severe pain in my right shoulder. Later diagnosed as a relatively minor injury called “Internal Impingement Syndrome” which causes micro-tears in the muscles around the rotator cuff. It was the first real injury I had ever suffered. In October I elected to have surgery to give myself one more chance to play. Rehabbing after the surgery took the rest of the fall and most of the winter; in terms of being ready for the season, I was two weeks behind my teammates at Purchase.

The four years spent as a Purchase Panther have given me something that I missed being an out of state student; a family. Each of the seniors has poured their blood, sweat, and tears into a game that has watched them grow up and taught them the lessons that school never could. Connor O’Rourke, Alex Doskoez, Jemal Betances, James Shea, James May, Max Vera, and I owe more to baseball than any of us could ever dream of. Knowing that this season was the last, that blue and orange would be the last colors we represent on the field, it gave each of us an extra sense of purpose during the season.


Each weekend for the eight-week, 40-game season, we had become accustomed to a countdown to the end of life as we knew it. A blur. A flash of crowds cheering, players chirping, and the unmistakable sharp ping of the bat and ball connecting. All of this barreling us towards senior day, held on the day of the last home game of the season.


The week of our final home games (the second to last week of this season) was treated as business less than usual. Because head coach Adam Taraska and multiple players were quarantined for COVID-19, extra weight fell on team captains Shea, May, Doskoez and Vera as well as the team’s pitching coach Mark Jurczak and assistant coach J.R. Causa to get the team ready for the weekend instead of having a full team and coaching staff for practice.


The difference became the post-practice speeches as that Sunday crept closer and closer. In these end of practice meetings, the captains say a few words before the team packs up and leaves for the day. Thursday’s practice held a specific request. Sam Saltzman, a freshman outfielder, said, “Let’s get a few wins for our seniors this weekend.”


After some cheers of agreement, Shea interjected, “Don’t focus on winning for us, it’s not just about the seniors this weekend. These games are important for all of us [the team]. The only thing I’ll ask from you guys is to give it your all if you aren’t already. If you want to do something for the seniors this weekend, it’s empty the tank.” Shea, a three-year starter, was a calming presence in that moment; Making sure that the team never got too ahead of itself whether in the heat of a close game, or after a practice like Thursday’s, where the group let emotions take control rather than staying level-headed.


The weekend went by in a blur, the Saturday split against Manhattanville fueling the team heading into Sunday. Senior day was finally here.


The senior day festivities took place between the team’s doubleheader games against Farmingdale State from Long Island. There was a pit in my stomach for multiple reasons, the first being that my family was unable to make the trip from Florida to New York to be there. Second, I knew it was my last day playing at Purchase College since our last weekend of games were both away. Luckily, some parents in the bleachers were able to send videos to my parents of me walking onto the field. Growing up, I never knew how to feel when all eyes were on me. Walking out onto the field as my career highlights were told over the PA system, I felt at peace. Pure happiness as I shook hands with and hugged the coaches that gave me a second family for four years.


After a team wide outbreak of the flu knocked out our practice schedule for the week, we played our final games of the season.




It’s been 11 years since I first stepped foot on a baseball field, encouraged by a childhood friend that it would be fun to play. He was right, and for the spring and fall every year since, baseball was all I did. Swinging a bat and throwing a ball seemed so simple then, trying to emulate my heroes; Derek Jeter, Josh Beckett, pitcher for the Florida Marlins, or Tim Lincecum, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and having fun only a child could have while playing. My whole life has happened between 2009 and 2022, and right beside me the whole way was baseball.



Just like it’s said in “Field of Dreams,” the game of baseball has always stayed right where it is, no matter what has gone on in my life. Once I got to the field, and smelled the grass, and felt the crunch of the dirt under my feet, I could let life go.

This school year, my final one, was my hardest year of baseball. As a pitcher, throwing comes with the danger of injuries from overuse. After pitching all summer on Long Island in 2021, I developed severe pain in my right shoulder which was later diagnosed as a relatively minor injury called “Internal Impingement Syndrome.” The injury causes micro-tears in the muscles around the rotator cuff. It was the first real injury I had ever suffered. In October I elected to have surgery to give myself one more chance to play. Rehabbing after the surgery took the rest of the fall and most of the winter. In terms of being ready for the season, I was two weeks behind my teammates at Purchase because of all this.

The four years spent as a Purchase Panther have given me something that I missed being an out-of-state student; a family. Each of the seniors has poured their blood, sweat, and tears into a game that has watched them grow up and taught them the lessons that school never could. Connor O’Rourke, Alex Doskoez, Jemal Betances, James Shea, James May, Max Vera, and I owe more to baseball than any of us could ever dream of. Knowing that this season was the last, that blue and orange would be the last colors we represent on the field, it gave each of us an extra sense of purpose during the season.


Each weekend for the eight-week, 40-game season we had become accustomed to became a countdown to the end of life as we know it. A blur. A flash of crowds cheering, players chirping, and the unmistakable sharp ping of the bat and ball connecting. All of this barreling us towards senior day, held on the day of the last home game of the season.


The week of our final home games (the second to last week of this season) was treated as business less than usual. Because head coach Adam Taraska and multiple players were quarantined for COVID-19, extra weight fell on team captains Shea, May, Doskoez and Vera as well as the team’s pitching coach Mark Jurczak and assistant coach J.R. Causa to get the team ready for the weekend instead of having a full team and coaching staff for practice.


The difference became the post-practice speeches as that Sunday crept closer and closer. In these end of practice meetings, the captains say a few words before the team packs up and leaves for the day. Thursday’s practice held a specific request. Sam Saltzman, a freshman outfielder, said, “Let’s get a few wins for our seniors this weekend.”


After some cheers of agreement, Shea interjected, “Don’t focus on winning for us, it’s not just about the seniors this weekend. These games are important for all of us [the team]. The only thing I’ll ask from you guys is to give it your all if you aren’t already. If you want to do something for the seniors this weekend, it’s empty the tank.” Shea, a three-year starter, was a calming presence in that moment; Making sure that the team never got too ahead of itself whether in the heat of a close game, or after a practice like Thursday’s, where the group let emotions take control rather than staying level-headed.


The weekend went by in a blur, the Saturday split against Manhattanville fueling the team heading into Sunday. Senior day was finally here.


The senior day festivities took place between the team’s games against Farmingdale State from Long Island. There was a pit in my stomach for multiple reasons, the first being that my family was unable to make the trip from Florida to New York to be there. Second, I knew it was my last day playing at Purchase College since our last weekend of games were both away. Luckily, some parents in the bleachers were able to send videos to my parents of me walking onto the field. Growing up, I never knew how to feel when all eyes were on me. Walking out onto the field as my career highlights were told over the PA system, I felt at peace. Pure happiness as I shook hands with and hugged the coaches that gave me a second family for four years.


After a team wide outbreak of the flu knocked out our practice schedule for the week, we played our final games of the season.

Miller finishing a pitch at the US Merchant Marine Academy. Photo by Stan Doskoez.

My final outing on the mound came against St. Joseph’s University, New York - Long Island in Patchogue. After the starter - a sophomore named Cass Muller - threw the first four innings, I was called in relief in the fifth after we fell behind 9-1. As I approached the mound, I felt everything and nothing at once. Each step - left. right. left. right. - centered me rather than worried me. The eight warm up pitches that a new pitcher is given provided new thoughts about the mound and adjustments necessary to throw strikes. The mound itself harbored unfortunate holes at both my landing spot and right next to the rubber. Each pitch I threw pushed back the thoughts I knew would rush in after the game. Just like in “For Love of the Game” starring Kevin Costner, I was fighting against time, and I was losing.

Each pitch in the fifth inning brought a confidence that I had not felt all season. Facing a friend on St. Joseph’s as the leadoff batter in Nick Vicino, I decided that if I did anything today, I was going to strike him out. After going back and forth, battling to a 2-2 count (2 balls and 2 strikes), he had fouled off a changeup inside and swung under an outside fastball the next pitch to fly out to center field. The next two batters melted together as they both flew out to the outfield and I walked off the field, high-fiving my teammates as we funneled back into the dugout.


The best moment of the outing didn’t come after a strikeout, or a fantastic play. It came during a mound visit in the sixth inning with two outs after I had walked one batter and another singled up the middle. Vera overthrew a back-pick to first, causing the runner on second base to move to third and I walked another batter, still with 2 outs. Vera, who had been my catcher for four years, decided to give me a breather and Shea, who jogged up from behind me at shortstop, came up to the mound too.


“I just wanted to be a part of this,” Shea said with a smile, referencing the mound meeting.


“Sorry about the tweak,” said Vera, talking about the throwing error. “Sometimes you just gotta tweak.”


I chimed in, “Hey, I’m tweaking right now, I’m slipping all over the place.”


All of us chuckled.


“Sometimes you just gotta tweak,” Vera said, shrugging as he brandished what had become his signature grin.


We all laughed again, minds clear as the both of them returned to their spots on the field and I stepped back on the mound to finish the inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, I made the batter fly out to end the inning. While I returned to the mound in the seventh to throw what would be my final inning. The mound meeting in the sixth will stay with me forever. We were kids again, playing for each other.


I gave up a run in the seventh inning, pushing through the buildup of arm pain that had accrued. My breaking ball? Gone. My changeup? Fading. Throwing fastball after fastball to batter after batter is not the recipe for success. After a leadoff double by Vicino (I never struck him out), the next batter hit a pop fly to May at first. A wild pitch caused Vicino to move to third as I walked the batter. With runners on first and third, I got the next batter to fly out, bringing Vicino to score. And after another hit, with runners on first and third again, I tallied my final out as a college pitcher.


I walked off the mound the same way I walked onto it in the fifth, everything and nothing in my head at once.


“I’m pretty much out of gas, Coach” I say to Jurczak as I walk into the dugout. Jurczak nods and goes to find the next pitcher to throw in the eighth.


The bus ride home was a quiet one, having not accomplished what we had set out to do (win). Gearing up for what was bound to be an emotional day at SUNY Maritime, which was just under the Throgs Neck Bridge.


As the pitching staff walked to the bullpen, Jurczak came up to me to see how I was feeling after throwing the day before. He did this after every outing to see if guys were sore or hurting. That day’s question was weighted differently.


“You got an inning in you today, Mills?” he asked. Although after the 48 pitches I threw the day before, it felt as if he and I both knew the answer.


“No Coach, I don’t think I can throw today.”


“So yesterday was your last time throwing?” asked Jurczak.


“Yeah, I guess so,” I responded. Before I could say anything else, Jurczak pulled me in for the handshake hug that had become the heartfelt interaction between teammates and coaches


“Good job,” he said. “You finally got that clean inning [scoreless] you said you wanted,” laughingly.


We laughed and I went to go get ready for my duties for the games. Since I was not throwing in either game, I took warmups lightly and enjoyed my last day on the baseball field. Joking around with Doskoez and his younger brother in the outfield during batting practice, and feeding Taraska during I/O (Infield/Outfield) one last time.


Like he did every gameday, Taraska looked at me next to him and casually said “Hey Mills” before ripping a baseball into the outfield to start the day. After that, he was all business. One throw to second base, two to third and two to home for the outfielders before the Infield segment began. My job was to underhand baseballs to Taraska the whole way through.


After I/O, I grabbed the opposing lineup from Taraska and wrote the book for the games the rest of the day. The book was the scorecards for the games. Normally tracking hits, runs, each lineup and pitching changes that might be made throughout each game.


The games glued themselves together as I watched pitch after pitch. Tension and frustration building throughout as runs were scored or hits were given up. The losses hit hard, but what happened next hit harder.


After a quick recap of the games, the message to the team at the end of the day focused on saying goodbye to the seniors.


“I want all the seniors to stand over here, by me, while I say this so it’s easier for me to find you guys.” asked Taraska, having his seniors group together on one side of the huddle. Sunglasses on most of them, blocking the tears rolling down their cheeks.


“I couldn’t be more proud to say that I’m proud of you guys the way that you’ve carried yourselves on and off the field. College baseball is not easy, and dedicating yourselves to it for four years is even harder,” said Taraska.


“The season is built from two sides of the same coin,” added Jurczak, “The marathon of the season is what you guys put into it, and the sprint is how quickly the season goes by. Taraska and I both know that you all will succeed in whatever you do in life because of the lifelong friendships you’ve made from this team.”


It was hard to pay attention, looking around seeing the men that had become my brothers come to the conclusion that they had finished playing the game that we had devoted our lives to. As both Taraska and Jurczak left the huddle, we came together one last time.


“I’d like to say thank you to you guys for allowing me to lead you this year,” said Shea, holding back tears so he could finish, “I love you boys and I want you all to kill it next year.”


“You boys made the season what it was, I know I speak for all of us when I say we appreciate you guys' hard work,” said Vera.


“Good job this year fellas, we got more work to do for next year but I believe we can do it,” said Doskoez who had decided to come back for a fifth year after getting hurt early in the year.


May just nodded in agreement, tear trails falling under his sunglasses.


One last time, we came together, and one last time we put our hands in the middle and broke it down. Vera led us: “Family on me, Family on 3. 1. 2. 3. FAMILY.”


As we walked back to the dugout to pack up our gear, the team began hugging and saying goodbye to the seniors. Jackson Lowery, a junior on the pitching staff that I had grown close with, came up to me and grabbed me. A close hug that was meant for brothers.

“If you need anything, ever, let me know.” said Lowery, “I love you man.”


“I love you too, brother, thank you. I’ll let you know whenever I’m in Virginia,” I said.


Afterwards, junior infielder Louis Carvell, came up and did the same thing. “Congratulations,” he said as we embraced, “We’ve come a long way from playing on the Titans together huh?”


“Absolutely. You gotta tear it up next year for me,” I told him. Carvell and I had met before his freshman year in 2019 playing on the same summer ball team, the Long Island Titans.


There’s this feeling of knowing it won’t be the last time I see any of these guys again, but as we walked to the bus for the last time, parents hugging the seniors and telling us good job and good luck in the real world, there was an emptiness throughout the team. The last team experience we had left was the Chicken Parmigiana hero from Silver Lake Pizza, then nothing.


The seniors waited for the sandwiches and made sure everyone who wanted one got one once we got off the bus back at Purchase. After the food was dispersed, plans to hang out later that night were made, and everyone went back to their dorms.


I drove away from the gym parking lot for the last time at 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday, hearing the gravel rumble under my tires as I pulled away with the sun just starting to make its trip down the last quarter of the sky. Just before sunset. A perfect way to end my career.