Now in Triple-A, Milburn moves closer to major-league target
When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their 2020 baseball season, Matt Milburn and other journeyman minor-leaguers had a decision to make. Was it worthwhile to continue chasing big-league goals, or was it time to hang up the cleats and move on?
Milburn, a former Highland Park standout who has pitched in the Oakland Athletics system since 2016, decided to return to his roots. Left to work out on his own, Milburn spent much of last summer throwing into a net at HP.
In March, when he was at spring training and details of the 2021 minor-league season were confirmed, he knew he made the right choice.
“You realize how much you miss it when it’s taken away from you,” Milburn said. “When we found out there was going to be a season, you get excited again and get those butterflies. I still want to pursue the dream of playing in the major leagues.”
Milburn, 27, is pitching this season for the Las Vegas Aviators in Class AAA, just one step away from taking the mound for the A’s.
I still want to pursue the dream of playing in the major leagues.Matt Milburn
Not only is he pitching in a new, amenity-filled ballpark in Las Vegas, but he’s also able to fly to road trips rather than having to endure long bus rides between small towns for the first time in five professional seasons.
“This was definitely a step up for me. You’re so close, and you’re looking for that one thing that would put you in that MLB category,” he said. “You’re around guys who have been in the major leagues before, and you watch how they go about their work. It’s a completely different atmosphere than at the lower levels. I’m next to them every day and try to learn from them.”
After graduating from HP in 2012, Milburn pitched four seasons at Wofford College in South Carolina. He was selected by the A’s in the 29th round of the MLB Draft in 2016.
Since then, he’s logged almost 500 innings while gradually working his way up the ladder, having spent seasons in Burlington, Vermont; Beloit, Wisconsin; Stockton, California; and most recently, Midland in 2019.
“I love the A’s. There’s something to staying with the same organization your whole career,” he said. “That means they believe in you, to keep giving you the opportunity every day.”
Milburn didn’t pitch in any MLB games in spring training this year, but he worked out with the big-league club every day. A few days before the season, he was assigned to Las Vegas, where he’s focused on improving his velocity and versatility.
“It’s all about getting outs and performing. If you can do that, then you’ll have a job,” Milburn said. “It motivates me every day.”
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