By Michael Guise, firstname.lastname@example.org
BLACKFOOT â€” Payson Mills realized his potential while at an Idaho Cubs camp in Boise last year.
After putting his skills on display for the coaches in attendance, Blue Mountain Community College showed interest in the prospective college baseball player. Mills cultivated a relationship with the Timberwolves’ coaching staff, which led to a visit to the Northwest Athletic Conference school in November 2017.
Mills toured the campus, saw the baseball facilities, met the coaching staff and decided he wanted to be a Timberwolf. On Thursday at Blackfoot High, the senior pitcher signed his National Letter of Intent to continue his baseball career at Blue Mountain Community College.
“This is crazy,” Mills said. “All that hard work went somewhere. It got me somewhere and it was great.”
Mills was a mainstay in the Broncos’ rotation last season and will carry the momentum from 2017 into Blackfoot’s top pitching spot this season. The then-junior shined when Blackfoot’s ace, Pacen Hayes, was out of the lineup with injuries.
For the season, Mills had a 4-1 record, 4.07 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched, the second-most innings tallied on the team. He also had a .268 batting average.
“He is going to be an ace on our staff,” Blackfoot coach Liam Pope said. “He is willing to learn and is hard-working, something you expect of someone going to the next level.”
Mills has spent the offseason upping his workout regimen and fine-tuning his mechanics.
The pitcher works out every day and follows a throwing program, which has helped increase the velocity on his fastball to 85 mph, up from a mid-70s fastball last season. It’s just another step in Mills’ progression as a player.
“He is very coachable,” Pope said. “You saw from the start, he was willing to work. It gives him more options.”
Mills joins Rhys Pope, George Sebena and Hayes as Broncos in the last two seasons who have signed NLIs to continue their baseball careers. The group played together last season, but missed out on a chance to play at state after a 4A title in 2015 and a berth in 2016.
In Mills’ final prep season, he wants to go out on top.
“We had to part ways with the older kids last year,” Mills said. “That was one of the worst things. With the guys this year, I’m excited for what is to come. I’ve seen us progress.”