St. Paul retires No. 15 in honor of Millar
Before he was a 12-year big league veteran and a key member of the 2004 curse-breaking Red Sox, and long before he was an MLB Network star, Kevin Millar was an independent leaguer trying to keep his baseball dream alive. Millar, 50, began his baseball journey with the St. Paul
Before he was a 12-year big league veteran and a key member of the 2004 curse-breaking Red Sox, and long before he was an MLB Network star, Kevin Millar was an independent leaguer trying to keep his baseball dream alive.
Millar, 50, began his baseball journey with the St. Paul Saints, a team partly owned by comedian and noted baseball fan Bill Murray. Millar played for the Saints in their inaugural 1993 season and helped them win the Northern League championship, making enough of an impression that his contract was purchased by the expansion Florida Marlins that fall.
Nearly 30 years after he first put on the uniform, the Saints recognized Millar’s connection to the club by retiring his No. 15 in a ceremony at CHS Field in St. Paul on Saturday, alongside the No. 5 of former Saints player and coach Wayne Terwilliger and the No. 22 of the George Tsamis, the all-time winningest Saints manager.
Thank you @StPaulSaints it was a huge honor 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/DyBcN6JX2B— Kevin Millar (@KMillar15) August 15, 2022
“It was truly one of the great nights I’ve had, it was first class … they treated me, honest to God, like I was Big Papi making the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,” Millar said Tuesday, referring to former Red Sox teammate and newly enshrined Hall of Famer David Ortiz. “It was such an honor, you never know what to expect when you’re that guy … you don’t really know. It’s not like I’m a star out here. Literally perfect. Perfect evening, my whole family was there, my kids and wife, and they gave us this awesome [No. 15 plaque]. Really special.”
The celebration also included a bobblehead giveaway that paid homage to a 1993 photo showing Millar holding the team’s pig mascot and wearing a costume snout.
Millar initially joined the Saints, now the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, after he went undrafted out of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Jim Gilligan, Millar’s head coach at Lamar, used his relationships within the Saints’ ownership group to get Millar a tryout, leading to his first professional opportunity.
“I stayed [in Minnesota] and made $600 a month and we won the championship and it was the greatest summer I’ve had besides the 2004 Red Sox season,” said Millar.
Though his contract was picked up by the Marlins in September 1993, he wouldn’t make his MLB debut until 1998. After appearing in parts of five seasons with the Marlins, Millar had the most successful run of his career with the Red Sox, coining the club’s “Cowboy Up” mantra in 2003 and making a name for himself as one of the many colorful characters on the team that came to be known affectionately as the “Idiots.”
Millar famously drew a ninth-inning walk off Yankees closer and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera with the Red Sox trailing by one run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. It proved to be the first step in Boston’s historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit in the ALCS. The Red Sox went on to win the 2004 World Series title, breaking the "Curse of the Bambino" in the process.
An absolute honor and blessing and thank you to the @StPaulSaints for the jersey retirement and 1st class organization. 1993 never drafted and gave me a shot to play baseball and chase my dream. Saint for life #15 🇺🇸⚾️🇺🇸⚾️ pic.twitter.com/fkrkPrVlfK— Kevin Millar (@KMillar15) August 14, 2022
Known for his big personality, broadcasting seemed like a natural transition for Millar after his playing career, though he admits he didn’t know how to put in an earpiece or tie a tie when he first got the call to try out for MLB Network.
His big broadcasting break came in 2011 with the opportunity to co-host “Intentional Talk” with Chris Rose on MLB Network. The show is still going strong more than a decade later, with Stephen Nelson replacing Rose as Millar’s co-host in 2021.
Millar, a father of four, usually hosts the show from his home studio, but he says he appreciates the opportunity to do “Intentional Talk” on location at some of the biggest events on the MLB calendar, including the All-Star Game and MLB at Field of Dreams, seeing this as his chance to generate excitement and help grow the game.
In Millar’s view, none of this would be possible without his initial opportunity with the Saints in 1993.
Ending the show with a BANG!@KMillar15 | @TexasBaseball pic.twitter.com/uEWhmZTJ40— Intentional Talk (@IntentionalTalk) May 19, 2022
“This organization will hold dear to my heart for my entire life, because without them I’m probably not in the big leagues,” he said.
Millar actually played for St. Paul on two occasions after the end of his MLB career, including an appearance during the Saints’ 25th anniversary celebration in 2017. Improbably, he homered in his lone at-bat.
Millar, who recently went deep in a batting practice session at Dodger Stadium during All-Star Week in Los Angeles, was ready to suit up for the Saints again Saturday. But a lot has changed since that 2017 game, with St. Paul leveling up in 2021.
“I did [want to play], but now they’re a Triple-A organization,” he said, “so the first thing they told me was, ‘Kevin, put the bats down.’