Kyle’s spirit for the game lives forever.
By Keith Groller
I’ve been lucky to see a lot of things in my 15 years in this business – especially the past 12 1/2 years as a full-time reporter.
I’ve had the chance to witness the elegance of Julius Erving, the sheer will of Charles Barkley, the greatness of Michael Jordan, the buffoonery of Buddy Ryan, the arrogance of Pete Rose, the perfection of Mike Schmidt’s swing, the dominance of Central Catholic’s 1993 state championship football team, the marksmanship of Billy McCaffery and Pete Lisicky, the blazing blur of Ty Stofflet’s left arm, and so many other memorable sights.
But probably the thing I’ve enjoyed seeing more than anything else in my Morning Call career is simply sitting at a softball game at Patriots park and watching Kyle Miller do his thing.
I loved to watch a foul ball leave the park down the line and then feel the breeze of Kyle flying past me in a mad dash.
I loved to watch him work a crowd when selling raffle tickets, cajoling even the stingiest of customers into digging deep into their pockets.
And I loved to hear him scream for any Allen High Softball player at the plate, encouraging her to “Just make a little contact! Just a little rip! C’mon, you can do it…”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen more passion from anyone in the sports world in my writing career.
Talk about loving what you do; Kyle Miller loved softball and being around people. it seems as though he tried to squeeze the joy out of every moment because he knew he wouldn’t have as many of them as most other people.
Kyle died early yesterday at the age of 24.
His nearly life long battle against cancer is now over and everyone who knew him is feeling a sense of loss.
Kyle was a giant in the Allen High School sports and local softball communities, although he never grew more than 5 feet tall. Countless chemotherapy treatments as a young child killed the growth cells in his body.
He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at the age of 4. After surgery and years of treatment, he seemed to have the cancer whipped. And then about 1 ½ years ago, with a bright future again seemingly on the horizon, the cancer returned.
But Kyle never stopped smiling, never stopped working and helping people, whether it was assisting Canary basketball coach John Donmoyer or spotting announcer Ron “Punkin” Miller in the football press box.
He never stopped thinking of others, never stopped working for such ventures as the Carole Weil Memorial Scholarship Fund, despite his own pain and suffering.
“The thing that always stood out about Kyle – even when he was a kid – was how happy he was,” said very close friend Ed Stinner, Allen High softball coach, in a past interview. “I can be moody – I think we all can be at times – but I’ve never seen Kyle in a bad mood. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone who gets along so well with people – men and women, young and old, rich and poor.”
“He was a real joy to be around,” said Allen H.S. teacher Glenn Grigg, another close friend. “In my 25 years of teaching, I’ve met many exceptional young people, but Kyle always made me understand that I made the right choice in deciding to work with young people. Everything was important to him. Things you and I take for granted, he didn’t. Everyday occurrences were special and up moments for him.”
He was an inspiration to Allen High School’s 1990 state champion softball team, a squad known for never giving up. All the team needed to do to get inspired was to look over at little Kyle, working his heart out for them on the bench and screaming encouragement at the top of his lungs. He seemed to make magic happen.
Fittingly, Kyle was to be inducted into the Allen High Athletic Hall of Fame next week during the Allentown School District Holiday Basketball Tournament with the rest of the ’90 softball squad.
He was honored as a senior in 1998 as Allen’s “Manager of the Year” and received many other awards from the Allentown Patriots’ organization and the Allentown Recreation Bureau.
But I have a feeling nothing would have made him happier than to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with the rest of the ’90 softball squad.
That anxiously anticipated ceremony won’t feel the same now, but somehow, Kyle’s spirit will live on with each team member.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss to the Allen High sports community,” said a somber Les Kish, the Allen athletic director, yesterday. “We will never forget the inspiration that Kyle gave our athletic program over the years. We mourn his passing, but we choose to remember how he lived and what he meant to us as an exceptionally courageous individual.”
Indeed, the guy I named “Mr. Softball” was actually much more than that to so many people. Probably, “Mr. Courage” or “Mr. Inspiration” would have been much more appropriate, but Kyle might have thought those titles were a bit too corny and would have fired something back at me about not being able to write my name, much less a newspaper article.
He was about the only one of my critics who made me smile. After his ordeal, i figured what’s a little abuse? He taught me to laugh at myself and life’s little annoyances.
Now, “Mr. Softball” is gone and heaven is a better place. If God needs someone to track down foul balls, sell raffle tickets or inspire those around him, I know Kyle will get the call.
* Reprinted with permission of THE MORNING CALL December 22, 1994