Brad was offered the job after Manny Acta turned it down to become the manager of the Indians, the team that selected Beau with the 13th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
“I was kind of hoping [Brad] would at least get an interview with the Indians,” Beau said. “But Houston’s a great spot for him — a perfect fit. I’m really excited for him, and it’s great to have Acta here. Everything worked out for the best.”
Brad, who spent the past six years as Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston, had been in the running for the Mariners job after the 2008 season, but lost out to Don Wakamatsu. When the opportunity to interview for the Astros’ job presented itself, his family gave him a nice pep talk.
Recalled Beau: “We told him, ‘This is supposed to happen. You belong here.’ He went in with confidence and he nailed it. We knew he would. Any organization that sees the kind of person he is and how dedicated he is would give him a chance.”
That dedication comes with a cost. Brad was in the final season of his playing career when Beau was born in 1986. And while Brad was managing 11 seasons in the farm systems of the Cubs, Rockies and Dodgers, and serving 11 years as a bench coach for the Phillies, Expos and Red Sox, Beau was growing up in central California without his dad much at home.
“It’s different having a dad in the game,” Beau said. “People see the glamour and the glory of baseball, but most of my life he was gone for eight or nine months out of the year. Most of the time he was gone was during my baseball season, and baseball was big to me. So I never had a dad sitting there after a game, telling me what he saw.”
Brad, however, was no absentee father. He would talk to his son after all of his games and try to visualize his son’s progression. And father and son made the most of the winters when Brad was home.
“The four months I did have with him, he was an unbelievable influence on me,” Beau said. “I’m definitely at a point in my life now where you look back on it, and I couldn’t have asked for a better coach and father than he’s been my whole life.”
So when Beau talks about his dad’s new gig, he is genuinely excited.
“It’s one thing to get the job,” Beau said. “It’s another to go through the game for 30 years, like he did. Baseball is his life. He’s really dedicated to any job he’s ever had. That’s what makes it so special.”
Now, regarding Beau’s little side job this winter, it wasn’t your typical ballplayer’s offseason, to say the least.
Beau’s father-in-law owns a dairy farm, and Beau, who resides in Visalia, Calif., was curious about the business.
“That’s big where I come from,” he said. “Central California is all citrus and dairies. I love the outdoors and doing stuff like that, so I went and worked on a dairy.”
Mills said his duties ranged from cleaning manure to feeding and giving IV shots to cows. He even assisted with the birth of a baby calf.
“I did almost everything you can do on a dairy,” he said proudly. “Now when I drink a glass of milk, I know all the work that goes into it. It’s not just a glass of milk anymore.”
Through his father’s example, Mills has seen first-hand where hard work in baseball can get you. And Beau will have to continue to work hard to meet the potential that made him a No. 1 pick.
Mills, 23, is coming off an inconsistent season at Double-A Akron, where he batted .267 with 14 homers, 33 doubles, 83 RBIs and a .724 OPS. He had a rough start to the year, but hit .284 in the second half and .366 over the last 10 games of the regular season. His RBI total was the fourth highest in the system. After the Aeros captured the Eastern League crown, the Indians sent Mills to the Arizona Instructional League for further refinement.
Off the field, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Mills has committed to refining his body by working with a personal trainer to get the most out of his raw power. He has gained about eight pounds of muscle in the past year.
“I wanted to come into this year strong and ready,” he said. “I’m at the point in my career and life where [the physical aspect of the game] is affecting me more and more. I want to try to prevent injuries as much as possible.”
It’s difficult to forecast Mills’ path this season. He hasn’t been told where he’ll start the year, though a little more time in Akron is certainly a possibility. The expectation that Matt LaPorta will eventually become the Tribe’s full-time first baseman means Mills’ position could be a crowded one down the line. But first, he’s hoping for his first crack at the Triple-A level.
“Wherever I go, I’m going to do the best I can,” Mills said. “All I can control is what I do when I step into this clubhouse each day.”