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His daughter’s father: Cardinals’ Trever Miller pitches for Grace

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Part of what motivates Trever Miller to keep pitching is a devotion to his youngest daughter, Grace.

Because she was born with two defects in her heart caused by a chromosomal disorder so rare it has no name, doctors did not expect Grace to live a year.

She turns 7 on June 28.

On Sunday, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a touching and dignified Father's Day feature on Miller, a 38-year-old pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. After breaking in with the Tigers during the 1996 season, Miller has accrued nearly 10 years of service time as a left-handed relief specialist.

Some may wonder how or why Miller continues to pitch knowing his daughter's life balances so precariously. In his way, it's a tribute to her tenacity.

"I know she would want to walk if she could. I know she would talk if she could," Miller said. "I've been given the ability to pitch. And if I can continue to do that until I'm 50, that's what I'll do."

Strauss writes that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa think so highly of Miller that he is free to take as much time as needed to be with his daughter in case of a crisis.

Crises frequently happen for Grace, and have throughout her often grueling life. {YSP:MORE}

Genetic defects to the 16th and 20th chromosomes led to an atrial septal defect and Parent Ductus Arteriosus within her heart. Grace's case is only the 21st of its kind, reportedly, in recorded medical history.

She is unable to walk or talk, she rarely cries, and even breathing can be tricky because she usually requires a ventilator. She has endured several operations, starting with the heart surgery at 4 months old that gave her a chance to live longer than anyone else with her set of conditions.

Grace has nearly died several times — most recently in May after surgery to remove a kidney stone went wrong. Two times, Pari has needed to revive Grace all by herself. One harrowing experience happened in 2008 at Tropicana Field as Miller — then with the Tampa Bay Rays — celebrated the last out of the 2008 ALCS with his teammates.

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It is tough to even imagine being in the Millers' position. Despite the constant hardships, Grace gets — and seems to give — love and happiness. The Millers say they count Grace as a blessing, and cherish every moment they spend with her and their two older, healthier children. And Grace does more than merely exist; she's trying to learn sign language.

At a fundraiser in Chicago a year ago, Miller succinctly explained why he and Pari attempted to extend Grace's life with heart surgery rather than, as Strauss wrote, "letting nature take its course":

"A lot of doctors are apprehensive to even do the surgery," Miller said. "God blessed us with Dr. [Jim] Quintessenza, who took a chance.

"He said. 'A lot of doctors are telling you about the 'quality of life' — but they don't know what the quality of life would be with your daughter. So maybe I can give you some time and you can work out the quality for yourself.' "

The Stew also touched on Miller's story back in February, after a feature ran in "Runner's World" about his offseason marathon training sessions pushing Grace in her stroller.

Both have been in it for the long haul.

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