Brad Mills has spent almost his entire life around baseball. Now, at 60-years-old, the Cleveland Indians third base coach is getting his chance to manage an All Star Game. Since Indians manager Terry Francona is recovering from surgery, Mills was responsible for putting together the American League line-up.
Mills was a player for the Montreal Expos in the early 1980s before he transitioned to coaching in the minor leagues. He has been a longtime confidant of Francona’s, dating back to Francona’s tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies. When the Boston Red Sox hired Francona in 2004, Mills went with him, serving as bench coach.
After a disastrous three-year tenure with the Houston Astros when the team was really bad, Mills reunited with Francona in Cleveland. In 2017, Mills has acted as interim manager for games Francona has missed due to health concerns.
Here’s a look at Mills’ life and career.
1. Mills’ Most Famous Moment as a Player Was Being Stuck Out by Nolan Ryan
Mills had an unremarkable career as a player. The Exeter, California native played in just 106 games in four years with the Montreal Expos, notes Baseball-Reference. Mills, who attended the College of the Sequoias in Visilla, California and the University of Arizona, batted .256 with a single home run and 12 RBIs.
Mills did have one notable moment in his career. As the Associated Press reported in 1983, Mills was Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan’s 3,509th strike out on April 27, 1983. That night, Ryan broke Walter Johnson’s career strike out record. Mills was just a pinch-hitter that night.
Ryan finished his career with 5,714 strikeouts and still holds the record. (Randy Johnson is #2 with 4,875.)
2. Mills Never Had a Winning Season With the Houston Astros
Today, the Houston Astros are the best team in baseball. But when Mills was managing, the team was still in the NL and still in constant rebuilding mode. During his two and a half seasons as manager, he never had a winning record.
In 2011, he became the first Astros manager to lead the team to a 100-loss season. In August 2012, the team fired Mills and two members of his coaching staff. At the time, the team had a 39-82 record. Mills’ record with the Astros was 171-274.
The Astros had every reason to think Mills would work out, since he had success with the Red Sox. He was the bench coach on a staff that won World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. As The New York Times notes, then-Astros GM Ed Wade also worked with Mills and Francona in Philadelphia.
““It’s easy to say he’s a Terry clone, but I think he’s his own man,” Wade told the Times in 2010. “He brings certain attributes that Terry has, but he brings it with his own personality. There’s not a more engaging manager in baseball than Terry, or a guy that wears his emotions and his love of players on his sleeve more than Terry does. I think Millsy brings a lot of that. There’s a real no-nonsense kind of passion here and love of the game.”
3. Mills’ Coaching Career Started in the Cubs Organization
Mills continued playing until 1986, when he was in the Chicago Cubs minor league system. He suffered a career-ending knee injury that year.
Mills was only 30 years old when the Cubs hired him for his first managing role the next year. As The New York Times reported, the franchise wanted him to fix their rookie league team in Wytheville, Virginia.
“He was well prepared, and he was a good teacher,” Matt Walbeck, a former minor league catcher who Mills managed, told the Times. “He taught all the fundamentals of the game, and also taught us how to be professionals. A lot of the stuff I learned from him, I’m now teaching to the guys I manage.”
Francona and Mills have been friends since 1978, when they were at the University of Arizona together. Francona called Mills in 1992, when Francona got his first managing job in the minors. He told the Times that he always thought Mills would be the one managing and he’d just be on his staff, not the other way around.
4. Mills’ Son Beau Bradley Mills Was Drafted by the Red Sox in 2004
In 2004, the same year Mills joined Francona and the Red Sox, his son, Beau Bradley Mills, was drafted by the team in 2004. Mills decided to go to college though, and was later drafted by the Indians in 2007.
Beau’s baseball career didn’t work out. In June 2012, he was traded to the Reds for cash. He never played in the big leagues.
Cleveland.com reported that Beau retired from baseball and is now raising bucking bulls in Orange, Texas.
“We’ve been raising bucking bulls for the last three or four years,” Mills told Cleveland.com. “Beau is doing that full time now. We’re going to take some of the [Indians] out there Saturday.”
Mills said that his son told him that he wanted to raise bulls. He approved of the idea, as long as he put his full heart into it. “He’s doing a good job at it,” Mills told Cleveland.com.
5. Mills Is Married to Ronda & Has 2 Other Children
Ronda said at the event that she and Mills met when they were kids. Even their parents were friends. They’ve been married for almost 40 years.
The couple have three children, son Beau and daughters Rochelle Cathleen and Taylor Candice. They also have five grandchildren.