Miles Hunter has put in a lot of hard work on and off the field and now it's time for the Moose Jaw Miller Express' outfielder to trade his baseball bat for a stethoscope.
Hunter played his final home game with the Miller Express on Saturday – a 10-9 win over Medicine Hat – and he's now headed back to Calgary to start med school later this month.
“The classes themselves start the week of July 21st and I really wanted to stay until July 20th, but the unfortunate part is there's a vaccination schedule that you have to uphold,” said Hunter. “It's tough and it sucks to be sitting on my butt when I do get home, but when it all comes down to it, I know it's for the best and this definitely works out.”
Hunter will also be getting settled into a new home just a few blocks away from the hospital, which will be his new field of play.
The Millers knew that they would only have Hunter for part of the season coming into this year, as the standout player is also a standout in the classroom and has aspirations to become a doctor. Those aspirations moved closer to reality recently when he was accepted into the University of Calgary's medical program on his first try after graduating in the spring.
However that meant he would have to leave his team in the middle of the season, which is a double whammy because the Millers are in the thick of the playoff race and Hunter is leading the team, and the league, in many offensive categories.
“I hate to say it, but if I was playing bad, it would be easy to leave,” Hunter joked. “(Playing so well) does make it more difficult to leave, but beyond the personal stats, it's the teammates, bar none... that's the hardest to leave behind.”
In 26 games this season, the reigning Canadian Rookie of the Year posted a .408 batting average, good enough for second in the Western Major Baseball League. He also had a .520 on-base percentage, which is easily the best in the league.
Hunter is a key part of the Moose Jaw lineup and head Coach Michael Hunt said he will be missed greatly.
“For a year-and-a-half, he's been a mainstay in the lineup, patrolling the outfield and playing quality outfield, and then especially this year to this point, he's been one of the most solid three-hitters I've had in my six years up here,” said Hunt.
“He's going to be really missed.”
Where Hunt feels that Hunter will be missed the most however is in the clubhouse as he developed into one of the key leaders on and off the field for the team.
“He's one of our core leadership group that we talk to every couple of weeks, so he's going to be sorely missed that's for sure,” said Hunt.
During that final game, you could see how much Hunter meant to the team by the reaction of his teammates as the game ended, each one took the time to head over and embrace Hunter with a hug.
“There's a lot of special guys who became some best friends real quickly, guys who were here last year and this year,” said Hunter. “It doesn't really hit you until it happens, so (Austin Russell) made that last catch in left field and it really hit me pretty hard, but in the best way though.”
Although he will be away from the diamond, Hunter said the Millers won't drift far from his mind as he starts to focus on school work.
“I definitely know I'll be following these every game,” said Hunter. “It's pretty special to finish this way, but I don't think I'll be far from the ballpark, whether it's online or in-person, I'll be tracking the boys pretty closely that's for sure.”
That's the other wrinkle to the situation is that Hunter will still attempt to play with the Millers when they venture back to Alberta. He's going to be in Medicine Hat on Thursday and Friday for Moose Jaw's two games and they will play it by ear after that.
Either way, it was an emotional goodbye to Ross Wells Park on Saturday for Hunter and the Miller Express organization.
“The city and the fans that come to every game, it's such a fun atmosphere playing here and every single day you come to the park and it's more than just a game, to these fans it's part of their life,” said Hunter. “To be a part of that is just awesome.”