As Anderson Miller strolled out of the clubhouse Thursday before an evening game against the Rome Braves, the newest Lexington Legend leaned his 6-foot-3 frame against the wooden stairs, looking the part of Kansas City's future center fielder.
Unbeknownst to Miller, in just a few hours he would be the hero of a 4-3 victory after his sacrifice fly in the fifth inning broke a 3-3 tie.
"Hopefully this is just another stop on the journey," he said. "I'm going to take this in because this is a once in a lifetime thing."
Miller, a Lafayette High School graduate, knows a thing or two about lifetime opportunities.
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His story has been told often. Spurned by the University of Kentucky out of high school, he accepted a scholarship offer from Western Kentucky, where he subsequently suffered a torn labrum against UK during his freshman season. He recovered, playing two more seasons before becoming the 98th pick of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft by the Royals, making him the third-highest draftee in WKU history.
Since, he has played one game for the Arizona League Royals, 10 games for the Burlington (N.C.) Royals and five games for the Lexington Legends entering Friday night. All in July.
To say his minor league experience has been moving fast is an understatement.
Compare his brief journey to past WKU draft picks and you'll understand the rarity of his accelerated ascension through the league.
Phil Wetherell was drafted in 2011 by the New York Yankees and after four years he still resides in Double-A; Wade Gaynor, drafted in 2009 by the Detroit Tigers, is stuck in Double-A; Terrence Dayleg, drafted in 2009 by the Miami Marlins still sits in Double-A.
Miller, drafted just more than a month ago is already in Class A. Granted, each organization has different pipelines and different needs, and Miller's rise might be based on unknown factors, but it's still an anomaly.
"You have to find ways of separating yourself," Miller said. "Whether it's working hard, it's just little things that go a long way at this level."
Those little things have landed him in his hometown of Lexington. True he grew up in the city, raised just miles from Whitaker Bank Ballpark, but Bowling Green and WKU have since become his new home.
"That feels like home more than here," he said. "I've been there for the last three years."
Fear not Lexingtonians, he still relishes the thought of playing in front of family, friends and former coaches.
"It's been awesome these last couple days," Miller said. "I didn't expect to be here right away. I've just been trying to take it all in and enjoy this experience."
His time in Lexington might be short-lived. The Legends have just more than a month left in their season, and should Miller continue playing well, he might join ex-Legend Ryan O'Hearn in Wilmington, Del., sometime next season.
However, unlike college baseball, the next day of life in the minor leagues is shrouded in mystery.
There one day, gone the next.
"They just told me to go out there and play," Miller said. "Keep having fun with it and the rest will happen. That stuff is out of your control at this level. You just go out there and control what you can control."
For most baseball players, the diamond offers a sanctuary from the politics and uncertainty of Major League Baseball. A player might not be able to control his fate off the field, but on it, his fate belongs to him.
That's exactly where Miller wants it.
The five-tool center fielder prides himself on his consistency. The lefty batted leadoff for WKU and was a first-team All-Conference USA selection in 2015. His game revolves around his power and patience at the plate and his excellence in the outfield.
"You can't get too far ahead of yourself," Miller said. "You have to go one day at a time because anything can happen. It's a frustrating game but you have to have fun with it. That's what I've been trying to do."
The decision to leave WKU after his junior season was not all fun and games for Miller. The Hilltoppers waded into new waters after the introduction of first-year head coach John Pawlowski days before the MLB Draft. Though Pawlowski has surrounded himself with a proven staff, Miller found that leaving his teammates to tread new territory was tougher than he imagined.
"Those guys are like my brothers," he said. "I'll be back there during the offseason to support them and help them mentally get through that so they can start something new there."
He'll also take time to recuperate during the offseason. After playing 52 games for WKU in the 2014-15 season, he jumped right into minor league ball and still has half a season to go in Lexington. The transition straight from college to a Class A full-season is an adjustment.
"When you're in college you think you're playing a lot of games. Then you get here, these guys are close to playing over 100 games, it's exciting," Miller said. "My body is going to have to adjust during the offseason, but I think my workout regimen will increase a lot."
He just has to learn how to play smarter and stay healthy so he can remain on the field.
"It's just part of the process of growing up and playing pro ball," he said.
Despite his rapid climb, Kansas City remains just out of reach, a faint glimmer through the swirling mist of the unpredictable minor league system.
"It's not going to be easy to get to Kansas City," Miller said. "I just want to do what I can along the way to help teams win. Hopefully, if I think about that the rest will take care of itself."