June 7, 2012
Gus Milner (Baseball) 2005-06
After playing two seasons at Hutchinson Community College, the Olathe, Kan. native did not have a tough time deciding where he would transfer to. Kansas and the Jayhawk baseball program seemed like a good fit as Milner had a successful junior campaign in 2005 and an equally impressive senior season in 2006, as he and the rest of the KU team captured the Big 12 Championship. Following his final year at Hoglund Ballpark, Milner was drafted in the 14th round by the Philadelphia Phillies, where he played in the organization for four seasons. Following his stint with the Philadelphia organization, Milner moved onto independent baseball where he played with the Sioux Falls Pheasants of the American Association. The local diamond hero can be found scaling the walls at Community America Ballpark for the Kansas City T-Bones, just a short drive from his hometown of Olathe.
What made you choose Kansas after playing two years at Hutchinson Community College?
"Playing closer to home and being able to have my family and friends watch me was one of the deciding factors of why I chose Kansas. Coach (Ritch) Price and the guys he had there were a great bunch. Everybody really got a long, so that was a good situation to get yourself into. It was also Big 12 baseball, which is one of the top conferences in the nation, so those three are the main reasons I went."
What was it like, winning the 2006 Big 12 Championship in your second and final year in the program?
"It was great. That whole year was just fantastic, both as a player and for the program. It was a step up for Kansas baseball as a whole. That Big 12 Championship was just a sample of how great our team was. We had a whole bunch of good, solid guys that came together as a team and we just had fun playing baseball."
What would you say was the highlight of your KU career?
"There were some good at-bats and I'm sure, some home runs. There was a game against Wichita State (April 6, 2005) where I hit two home runs my junior year. That was a memorable individual game, but the biggest one was that Big 12 Championship. Winning all those games and putting together a nice run was great. I can't remember the last time KU had won a Big 12 Championship before that, so that was the biggest for sure."
Following your senior year you were drafted in the 14th round by the Philadelphia Phillies, how gratifying was it to be rewarded for all your hard work?
"The year before... my junior year, I was drafted in the 47th round (by the Cleveland Indians), so I had already been through that process. I knew what was happening. Honestly, I was just waiting for a phone call. I didn't care what round it was, I just wanted to continue to play baseball. Luckily, I got the opportunity to do so."
How was minor league life compared to playing in college?
"The first full year was a different experience because you play every day. It's not like college baseball when you play on the weekends and sprinkle in a few weekday games. In the minor leagues you play every single day. You might get an off day every two weeks, sometimes longer. It's definitely a grind, but it's a game. It's always fun to throw on a jersey, go out and just see what you can do so that hopefully you can move up. It's more just a physical grind that you have to get used to although it is still a little bit mental. You can easily get down on bad days, but if you keep yourself positive, it definitely helps you get through the season."
You are now playing independent ball with the Kansas City T-Bones. What has that experience been like, playing again so close to home?
"It's great because I get to be around my family and friends. I've been on the East Coast the past few years and South Dakota (Sioux Falls) the past two years, so that's a decent drive for family, that's why this just works out. Anytime you have a good supporting cast of friends and family around you, it makes the season easier."
Have you crossed paths with any fellow Jayhawks during your time in the minor leagues?
"When I was with the Phillies, I had the opportunity to be with Mike Zagurski. I never played with him, but he was always a level head. I also played against Don Czyz when I was with the Marlins. Last year, I played against (Travis) Metcalfe when he was in Fort Worth. With Zagurski and Czyz, it was easier because I played with them, so I could just go up and have a regular conversation with them. With (Travis) Metcalfe, I ran into him and it was a simple `Rock Chalk.' Then we talked a little bit."
How often do you make it back to Lawrence?
"About once a year around Christmas time. I've been able to get basketball tickets over the past couple of years, but I haven't been able to get back for a baseball game. One day, I'll have the opportunity to."
What do you think of the upgrades to Hoglund Ballpark since you have left?
"I've seen the new locker rooms and the facilities on the right field line and they're probably the best in the Big 12 or at least right up there. I've seen the new turf, but with me being an old school guy I still like freshly-cut grass and dirt. It looks amazing out there though and I'm sure it's easier to manage. I saw the padded outfield walls, which would have been nice during my two years there, but better late than never."
Hopefully you have many days on the field yet to play, but what would you like to do once your baseball career is over?
"I haven't really thought too much about that, but I would like to stay around the game, coaching or helping out in some way. I'm also going to go back to get a Master's Degree, something with computers, so that will be in the future."
Milner's T-Bones Player Page: http://www.tbonesbaseball.com/thetbones/players/index.html?player_id=186
Throwback Thursday Archive: http://www.kuathletics.com/throwbackthursday.html