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Andrew Miller did some impressive things in a 16-year major league career. But few thrills could compare with obtaining his college degree

By Jerry Crasnick


Shortly after Andrew Miller threw the 829th and final inning of his career in October 2021, he peeled off his St. Louis Cardinals’ jersey in the clubhouse, took an inventory of the areas where his body hurt, and contemplated a future where he would be spending more time gazing at sunsets than staring a hole through a catcher’s mitt.

Miller officially retired in March of 2022 and began crossing items off his delayed gratification list. He manned a few grills, played chauffer to his kids, took the family on downhill ski trips to Utah, Colorado and Austria, and spent a week communing with nature and marveling at the moose and bald eagles during a Fly-in Fishing Expedition with his son in Canada.

Self-fulfillment -- in the form of a college degree -- was attainable only through hard work and the same dedication that Miller applied to his day job over 16 years in the majors.

Earlier this month, Miller achieved a longtime goal when he received his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The graduation ceremony in Chapel Hill put the cap on 18 months of frenzied multi-tasking, at a pace befitting a guy whose fastball once clocked 95 mph.

“I’m essentially a college dropout who now has a master’s degree,’’ Miller said, laughing. “It’s going to be a weird thing when I have to fill out a resume at some point. I’m going to have some explaining to do.’

Miller, 39, is one of several former big leaguers who’ve taken the plunge into academia in recent years. In 2022, Pedro Alvarez, Rickie Weeks and Chris Young (the outfielder, not the pitcher) all walked the stage on graduation day. Three-time All-Star Mark Teixeira recently completed the 41 credit hours necessary to obtain his business administration degree from Georgia Tech, and Nationals pitcher Josiah Gray returned from an extended absence to graduate Summa Cum Laude from Le Moyne College. Former big league pitcher Cory Gearrin is currently following the same path as Miller and pursuing his MBA from UNC.

For Miller, motivation came from the example set by his parents back home in Gainesville, Fla. His mother, Kim, is a retired pediatric nurse practitioner, and his father, David, was an accountant and real estate developer. When Andrew was in elementary school, his mom and dad both returned to school and received advanced degrees from the University of Florida.


My mom was the one to probably push me the hardest. I'm a competitive person, and I’m in a family that has a lot of higher education and I felt like it was something that I was behind on. I wanted to set an example for my kids, too.

Miller, an All-American pitcher at North Carolina, completed three years of coursework as a business major from 2003-2006 before baseball became his one and only priority. He turned pro after the Tigers signed him to a $3.55 million bonus as the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft. Through stops in Detroit, Miami, Boston, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland and St. Louis, two All-Star appearances and roughly $80 million in career earnings, he was too laser-focused on pitching to even think about a degree. 

But he was eternally curious, bouncing ideas off teammates, front office people and connections at the Players Association, where he served as a longtime team and league representative and prominent player voice. Miller found a kindred spirit of sorts in 2014 when he played in Boston with Chris Capuano, who graduated from Duke University with an economics degree in 2000, received an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management in 2019 and currently works at the Players Association as senior director of operations, business and strategy.

“Andrew is extremely thoughtful and intelligent, and his motor is always running at a high clip,’’ Capuano said. “We had some great conversations in the bullpen. But I wasn’t sure if he was going to take that step to go back to school and continue his education. He had a fantastic career and a lot of options in terms of what direction he wanted to go. But I’m not surprised that he wanted to keep his mind stimulated and his career moving.’’


Once Miller decided to go college hunting, his loyalty to North Carolina made it the obvious choice. The school offered an online business program that allowed him to study remotely at his home in Tampa with minimal disruption to his family life. In study groups and Zoom classes, Miller interacted with medical doctors, military veterans and other business professionals who were also pursuing advanced degrees. Many of them were surprised to find a sports celebrity in their midst.

“I usually try to lay low and keep to myself and not advertise it,’’ Miller said. “But when you introduce yourself in a Zoom class, it’s hard to work around, ‘What have you been doing the last few years?’ I'd be in class and somebody would text me and say, ‘I live in Cleveland,’ or, ‘I remember you when you were with the Yankees,’ and it was always kind of funny to chat with them. It was a good icebreaker.’’

As a second-time college student, Miller disdained shortcuts, working late into the night and sweating the details in classes ranging from financial accounting to marketing to “Ethics, Corporate and Individual Responsibility.’’ He learned to navigate an Excel spreadsheet and gained insight into the benefits and potential hazards of life in a ChatGPT-artificial intelligence world.

“In one of my classes they told us, ‘You’re not going to get replaced by AI, but you’re going to get replaced by somebody who knows how to use it. So you have to embrace it,’’’ Miller said. “It’s evolving so fast, who knows where it will be even six months from now?’’


While Miller, Teixeira and other recent graduates remain the exception rather than the norm, Capuano thinks professional ballplayers are better equipped for the rigors of higher education than they realize because of the demands placed on them by the relentless nature of their sport.

“Baseball players have sort of a work ethic in spades,’’ he said. “They have to be able to plan out their work, stick to a schedule and execute, over and over again. That’s what it takes to play at a high level. It’s no different in an academic or a work setting. School isn’t for everybody. But it can be a great option and a bridge between your playing career and whatever post-playing career you want to embark on. It gives you some direction with the transition when you lose that (daily) schedule.’’


Miller is unsure precisely what comes next, but he’s anxious to start weighing his options. For now, that UNC diploma has also set up an interesting dynamic at home. His wife, Katie, is a former Duke soccer player with a psychology degree from the school. Her two brothers and both of her parents also have Duke pedigrees. Now the Roark family has a UNC grad in its midst, and it was only possible through Blue Devils and Tar Heels uniting in pursuit of a common goal. 

“My wife edited just about every paper I wrote and looked over all of my work, and I bounced a lot of ideas off her,’’ Miller said. “I couldn’t have done it without her. As far as the rivalry is concerned, basketball season is really just about it. Everyone in her family is a big Coach K fan, so I have to toe the line a little bit there.’’

It remains to be seen what impact this latest development will have on the Millers’ two children, Max, age 10, and Hazel, 6, and the choices they make down the line.

“They play it both ways,’’ Miller said. “They wear their Carolina gear when they want something from me and their Duke gear when they want something from my wife or her parents. If they're lucky enough to get into either of those schools, I'll be incredibly proud of them. I think setting the bar so high is something we’re both very proud of as parents.’’

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