Six years ago Jared Milch led Terra Nova’s baseball team to the Peninsula Athletic League North Division championship. Last week, the 2016 graduate pitched in his first professional game as a member of the New Jersey Jackals.
Graduating last month from Stony Brook University, an NCAA Division I school, he was signed by the Jackals to play in the Frontier League, which is a Major League Baseball partner league.
The Frontier League collaborates with MLB on initiatives to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the United States and Canada. The Frontier League is the largest and longest-running independent professional baseball league. It features 14 clubs stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The ink had barely dried on Milch’s first professional contract when the 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefthander found himself starting against Tri-City in Washington, Pa., on June 4. Milch struck out seven going 4 2/3 innings in the no decision 7-5 win over the Valley Cats.
The debut came exactly one week after Milch’s final collegiate contest for the Stony Brook Seawolves in the America East Tournament against the University of Albany. Milch, 23, who just began throwing a slider in the fall — adding to his fastball, curve and changeup — earned the 3-2 win and was spectacular in the elimination game. He pitched all nine innings, striking out seven and allowing just two runs in the 120-pitch effort.
Stony Brook lost the opener to Maine, but rebounded to beat Albany and Maine in elimination games. In the championship, Stony Brook was winning 1-0 over New Jersey Institute of Technology with one out in the third inning. The bases were loaded when it started raining. Due to inclement weather, the remainder of the game and tourney were canceled, and NJIT was controversially awarded the NCAA regional bid since it hadn’t lost yet.
Milch was recognized for his performance by being named to the All-America East Championship team and ended his Seawolves career with a 2021 record of 6-4 in 13 starts, a 3.04 ERA. He struck out 63 in 74 innings. Those numbers garnered Milch second team All-Conference honors for the back-to-back regular season champion Seawolves (31-18) who set numerous school records this year, including a 15-1 record to start conference play.
“I always knew Jared would do well with a career playing baseball,” said John Vallero, who coached Milch at Terra Nova. “I was excited to hear that he had signed professionally.
“First, he is a leader. He’s so confident in what he does. He’s the type of person you need on a team to help a coach keep the other players on track,” added Vallero, who has coached youth baseball in the community for over 40 years. “We would not have won the league championship in 2016 had it not been for his performance on the field and his leadership off the field.
“Jared was a pleasure to coach. He is very disciplined,” said Vallero. “I have so many memories of him. His senior year, we won the league and advanced to the Central Coast Section championships. In the first game he was outstanding in our win over St. Theresa, allowing us to advance. Unfortunately, we lost to Bellarmine in the second round. Also, throwing a no-hitter against Capuchino in an earlier league game was a beauty.”
The Tigers won PAL titles in 2014 and 2016. Milch was selected Bay Division Pitcher of the Year.
After graduating from Terra Nova, he attended College of San Mateo where, in 2018, Milch earned first team All-Coast Conference honors going 10-1 with an ERA of 2.55 and 53 strikeouts in 84.2 innings. In the playoffs, CSM won two elimination games beating Marin, 2-1, and the eventual state champions, San Joaquin Delta College, 5-2. In those two victories, Milch threw 15 innings and struck out eight. In 2017, as a freshman at CSM, Milch helped the team win the Coast Golden Gate Conference championship going 3-3 in 10 starts with an ERA of 4.75.
Asked how he landed at Stony Brook following CSM, Jared said, “I am not quite sure how the coaches from Stony Brook found me at CSM, but I’m very thankful they did because I loved playing in that program. I’m very thankful for the opportunity they gave me.”
Jared’s dad, Kenny Milch, alerted me last week to the happy moment of Jared playing in his first professional game. I have followed Jared’s career, both in baseball and basketball, since his Terra Nova days.
Kenny and his family flew to the East Coast several times over the past two years to watch Jared play at Stony Brook. They were in the stands at Yogi Berra Stadium on the campus of Montclair State University when Jared made his pro debut for the Jackals.
“We enjoy the moment while it’s happening and sometimes think back to when we first started pitching in the backyard when he was 6 or 7,” said Kenny Milch, who himself recently completed his 11th year as Terra Nova boys varsity basketball coach. The 2015 Tigers were crowned champs and Jared was named PAL North MVP.
“So far, in three starts, all wins for the Jackals, Jared is 1-0 with a 2.54 ERA, and 20 strikeouts in 17.2 innings of work,” said his proud dad. “His first professional win was over the New York Boulders, 12-1. His stat line was six innings, five strikeouts and only one run allowed.”
“It was a surreal feeling to have my dad there to watch. I am very thankful to have him there supporting me,” said Jared. “They did get to see me throw a handful of times when I was at Stony Brook.
“I’ve been fortunate to play on some amazing teams with great players and coaches,” said Jared Milch.
Signing a pro contract with the Jackals does not deprive him an opportunity to be drafted by an MLB team in July when the draft is held in Denver, site of this year’s All-Star baseball game.
Horace Hinshaw is the Tribune sports editor emeritus.