Father's Day comes early for Mills

Father's Day comes early for Mills

BOSTON -- In some years, Father's Day comes a little early. And it doesn't always have to take place at a family barbecue.

It can even happen in a private box that overlooks a Major League ballfield, with a father and son sharing a moment neither will forget any time soon.

Take the case of Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills. On what the calendar says is Father's Day, Mills will be spending the day in Boston's dugout at Fenway Park, serving as manager Terry Francona's trusted right-hand man for that afternoon's game against the San Francisco Giants.

But on June 7, the timing of the grueling baseball schedule for once proved to have been perfect timing for Mills and his family.

The Red Sox had an afternoon game against the A's in Oakland that day, which was also Day 1 of the First-Year Player Draft. Beau Mills, Brad's only son, came into this year's Draft as one of the game's hottest amateur commodities.

Francona, who spent a year in Oakland as the bench coach for the A's and still had some connections there, pulled a couple of strings and arranged for the entire Mills family to watch the Draft together in a box at McAfee Coliseum.

Brad did have a game to tend to at 12:30 p.m. local time in Oakland. But the game hadn't started yet when the Cleveland Indians made Beau Mills the 13th overall pick. What ensued was a moment of euphoria that Brad shared with his wife, Ronda, son, Beau, and daughters, Taylor and Rochelle, not to mention his parents.

"It was pretty special," Mills said. "Everybody just kind of erupted."

And with good reason.

"It was a treat and a thrill," Mills said. "You like to see good things happen to your kids. It was more of a treat for me, because I got to be with him when it happened. It seems like in this game you miss so much of a lot of times with your family, and I really haven't had an opportunity to see him play a whole lot in his life -- Little League summer ball and all this other stuff. It was a treat to be able to be there and share in that with him."

Brad Mills was a former Major League player himself, having played for the Expos from 1980-83. Now, he's eager to see his son go through his own journey into professional baseball.

"Beau's a real good kid," Mills said. "He doesn't push his dad away or his parents or his grandparents. He's very good about just getting input on certain situations. Baseball-wise, every now and then, he might ask a question. If he doesn't ask, I might ask him, 'How did this feel?' or 'How did you feel doing it this way?' or try it this way or something. But he's real good about it.

"I've got to understand, too, even though I'm his father and in this game, he's got to learn a lot of things as well for his own. It always seems like we learn better if we learn on our own. Some of the big things you try to guide him through, and some of the smaller things you hope they learn and that's part of growing up as well."

Now that Brad Mills has a son who is a professional baseball player, he can't help but think of the way Beau Mills absorbed the surroundings of Major League Baseball at a young age.

"I can remember him falling asleep on the grounds crew's lap," Mills said. "He just loved to be involved. I'd go in and do my reports and shower and stuff and look out the door, and Beau is asleep on the tractor as the grounds crew is fixing the field. He literally grew up in the game, but he enjoyed it. He enjoyed being around it. And to see him grow up and love to do it is fun, especially to be as good as he is, too."

Yes, Beau Mills can hit. He belted 38 homers and drove in 123 runs at Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State College. It was a rewarding finish to a college career that started at Fresno State, where father Brad watched his son go through a tough time.

"It wasn't a good fit at Fresno State," Brad said. "I'm proud of him. Any time that kids overcome some certain obstacles and are able to play up to their expectations and live up to a lot of people's expectations, that's cool, and I'm very proud of him for that."

Now, Mills will watch as his boy officially becomes a man.

"There's a lot of things in this game that are tough," Mills said. "The travel, you're away from your family. The one thing that he's got is the experience of what it's like, being on some road trips with me and seeing what it's like and meeting people. He's a very personable kid. I'm excited for him, and I told him this: I think he's really going to enjoy pro ball."

And in this case, Beau Mills can be safe in the knowledge that his father is speaking from experience.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.