Baseball: NO’s Millem pledges to Butler

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By Brad Stephens

With rule changes made to college baseball in recent years, there’s become more of an emphasis on speed, defense and top-of-the-order hitting.

Those changes fit right into Roman Millem’s game.

Millem, a North Oldham rising senior shortstop, committed June 20 to play baseball at Butler University in Indianapolis. Bulldog coaches had offered Millem a scholarship in January, he said, and he decided last month to accept it.

“It’s a small school that’s close to a big city, so it’s just a lot of variety there,” Millem said. “...it’s close to home but it’s in another state, so I get to meet a lot of new people.”

Millem has played varsity for the Mustangs since his freshman year in 2012, helping North to a Region 8 title that season.

He’s impressed scouts along the way with his defense and speed, he said, including running a 6.5-second 60-yard dash at a scouting event.

That kind of speed has always been valuable but especially so since 2011, when new bat rules dramatically cut down on run production in the college game.

Because there are less home runs now, teams generate a lot of offense by playing small ball – getting runners on, stealing bases and getting them home.

“That is something that people look for in baseball now because it’s more of a small ball speed game and not so much power,” Millem said. “A lot of the coaches look for someone who can get on base and cause some chaos and take a couple of bags, bunt runners around.”

Chris Fuller, scouting director for Prep Baseball Report Kentucky, has been following Millem throughout his prep career. Fuller said Millem has “all the tools you would look for in a shortstop.”

“He has the arm strength,” Fuller said. “He has good speed.

“He’s got good size. He’s certainly a kid that can play that position at the Division I level given the tools that he possesses.”

Millem’s skills translate to the small ball nature of college baseball, Fuller said.

“Roman fits that mold well because he can use his speed as a weapon offensively,” he said. “He’s a guy that has the potential to lay down a bunt and beat it out, put pressure on the defense for sure.”

Next fall Millem will be joining a Butler program looking to carve out a competitive spot in the Big East Conference, a league it joined this season.

The Bulldogs will battle annually against teams like defending league champion Xavier, Creighton and Providence.

“With the Big East it’s a bigger conference,” Millem said. “They’re looking to grow.

“They’re getting more money to enhance the field and make some changes there. It’s more competitive. It’s a neat conference to play in.”

Millem had to miss the end of the 2014 high school season after aggravating a previous back injury. He’s spent that time off getting better and getting ready to play in the fall, he said.

“I’m starting to hit and throw,” Millem said. “It feels pretty much normal. I’m starting to work out again so I’m hoping I’ll be able to play fall ball pretty comfortably.”

He still has one season left to play for the Mustangs, who return a talented infield that includes rising sophomore third baseman Cameron Masterman. Masterman is also garnering interest from Butler, Millem said.

While Millem still has another season of high school ball to go, Fuller said he’s confident Millem made a good choice in selecting Butler.

“The bottom line is you don’t get better sitting on anyone’s bench,” Fuller said. “...I think Roman will have the opportunity at Butler to play early in his career.”

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