In the twisting road that has been the Jai Miller saga of the past seven days we have seen a surprise Major Leage Baseball selection, an even more surprising contract signing just hours later, then a shift in momentum against the contract as Stanford helped to mobilize forces to fight the Florida Marlins.
Our last update on Sunday came just before Miller received a Marlins representative into his family's home to respond to their concerns that the contract unfairly was restricting the Selma, Alabama three-sport star from athletic competition at Stanford. The talk was largely built on conversations Miller had conducted with Cardinal football head coach Buddy Teevens the previous few days about options and support that he could bring to bear in this fight.
"We brought up all the things Coach Teevens had brought up with me," Miller reports of the Sunday meeting. "In fact Coach Teevens had talked directly with the Marlins scout that morning. But [the Marlins] are not going to let me play football or basketball. They say they are strict with baseball."
It is unsurprising that the Marlins are standing firm with the baseball-only contract they had Miller sign last Tuesday; they would hardly be expected to capitulate so quickly. Sunday should have been the first step in a dance between the two parties, laying the groundwork for a brewing battle. But the Alabama athlete at the center of it all has a different take on next steps.
"I think this is the end of this," the incoming Stanford freshman reveals. "I signed the contract and so I have to hold up my end of the bargain."
That's a very disappointing stance for the Cardinal coaches to hear. The legal and organizational weapons they were readying were all predicated upon Jai Miller himself standing up and fighting this contract. Even forces high up in Major League Baseball were reportedly ready to go to bat for the young man, but they are not left much of an entree now.
And as of earlier today, Miller had yet to call the Stanford coaches since the failed Sunday meeting. It remains to be seen if Buddy Teevens can embolden his wide receiver signee with one more conversation, but the direction this thing is heading is not nearly as promising as 48 hours ago.
Ignoring any remaining unforeseen turn of events, the last outstanding issue would be when Miller would start school at Stanford. He was previously set to start this fall, but he has increasingly become nervous about spending his NCAA eligibility while he plays baseball. He now recognizes that his five-year NCAA clock starts when he starts classes, not when he starts competing as a college athlete, and that could leave him scant little eligibility for football or hoops if pro baseball works out.
"My grandfather wants me to start in the fall," Miller says about his Stanford enrollment. "But with with the eligibility clock starting, I don't know about that. Personally I don't want my eligibility to run out."
If he asks the Stanford coaches for their advice, though, I have learned that they will encourage him to start classes this fall. The later he waits to begin school the tougher it could be for him academically, and the University is also not prone to allow more than a year of deferred enrollment. Furthermore, if a year of professional baseball proves unappetizing for Miller, he would simply be a redshirt freshman for the fall of 2004.
Whatever transpires next, we will keep you up to date. Jai Miller is scheduled to report to Class A Rookie League baseball in Florida on Thursday.
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