Then he changed his mind.
"I guess it's because I love to play baseball," he said. "That's the bottom line. Why else would I be here?
"I know there's no guarantee I'll get back to the big leagues. The Phillies have basically told me I'm not in their plans. But it's like Britt Burns (the lefthander attempting a comeback with the New York Yankees) said, it's a kid's game. And I guess I still have a lot of little kid left in me."
Miller, an outfielder, isn't the only player dressing out at the complex these days whose dream dies hard. Like Miller, first baseman Greg Legg and lefthander Wally Ritchie have had a brief taste of life in the major leagues. Like Miller, they are on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster and the odds seem stacked against them getting back to the bigs.
"I was really frustrated at the end of last season," Miller said. "I was called up in September and didn't get a chance to play much at all, even though I thought there were a couple of opportunities there for me.
"So I asked to be traded. I asked again over the winter. But nothing came about."
Miller has been called up and sent down - three times in 1988 alone. He has been added to and subtracted from the major league roster. He has gone to the Florida Instructional League four times and changed positions every time he's been asked. For all that, he has less than a year of major league service.
"It's a battle all the time," he said. "Overall, the organization has been good to me. But I've laid it on the line for them for six years, too.
"I think I'll play this year. I can be a free agent at the end of this season, and then we'll see. If there's a team that's willing to put me on the major league roster, or at least think about me when they needed a player to bring up, it's something I would have to think about."
For Legg, the hope is even slimmer. He turns 30 in April. He has played a total of 14 major league games.
"But I'm not real frustrated," he insisted. "If you still think you can play, you show up.
"For me, it just makes me want to work harder, to get back what you had a taste of at one time."
"Baseball gets in your blood. You just can't quit. It's never entered my mind to quit. I just want to play and help a team, whether it's in Double A, Triple A or the majors."
For Ritchie, it all happened so suddenly. He was an anonymous lefthander until that fateful morning in 1987 when he pitched two strong innings in a ''B" game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Phillies president Bill Giles, who also doubled as the team's general manager at the time, was impressed. By May, Ritchie had been called up and spent most of the rest of the year in the majors. He made the club out of spring training in 1988, too, but got off to a slow start. He was sent down. And now when the Phillies reel off the list of the pitchers they consider prospects, Wally Ritchie's name isn't even mentioned.
"A lot has happened in the last three years," Ritchie said. "That sure seems like a long time ago.
"Everything happened so fast. I was only 21. I had been playing professionally for two years. At that time I thought I owned the world. Since then, though, I've come back to earth.
"I had a hard time dealing with it for a while. I was upset and I carried it inside me. But I finally realized that wasn't doing me any good.
"I think I'm a little more mature now. And I'm not really discouraged
because I've seen how quickly things can change from day to day at this level."
All but six Phillies made it into major league camp yesterday. The missing: pitchers Amalio Carreno and Terry Mulholland, infielders Tommy Barrett, Steve Jeltz and Randy Ready and outfielder Sil Campusano. Manager Nick Leyva said he wasn't upset by the absences . . . Leyva said he was pleased with the general conditioning of the players. "I think it's outstanding to see these guys come in in such good shape," he said. Third baseman Charlie Hayes, who has gone
from 223 to 202 pounds, was singled out for special praise.
Righthander Steve Ontiveros will start the season on an extended spring program. He had ligament-transfer surgery in his pitching elbow last July and isn't as far along as the team hoped he might be . . . The Phillies will play intrasquad games at Jack Russell Stadium Saturday and Sunday before opening the exhibition schedule against the Tigers Monday in Lakeland.