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For Coal City’s Miller, it’s all about the community

JOLIET – There aren’t a lot of perfect matches when it comes to jobs and people. Usually, you have to take what the job entails and find the person that best fits, knowing that there will be good points and bad.

In the case of Coal City’s Ken Miller and the position of Joliet Slammers Director of Community Relations, however, the fit is about as seamless as it gets.

“I don’t think we could have found a better person to be in that position,” Slammers general manager Chris Franklin said. “Ken is just a great person to work with and he is one of the friendliest people I know. He makes my job a lot easier.”

Miller, who taught and coached at Coal City High School full-time for 34 years and still coaches part-time with the football team, is in the twilight of his working career, and says he has the perfect gig.

“I started this job in December of 2010, and I really enjoy it,” Miller said. “I had retired from teaching in 2002, and one thing I told them when they offered me the job was no full-time. I worked full-time as a teacher and a coach for 34 years. The Slammers have been very good about keeping their word on that, and I will keep coming to work as long as I enjoy it.

“I have to say I have enjoyed it every day. It’s fun to be able to come out here to the ballpark and meet people.”

He might make it sound like it’s all fun and games, but there is a lot of work behind the scenes for Miller, who is instrumental in setting up community nights for Joliet and the surrounding towns at Silver Cross Field.

“We like to have those different community nights,” Miller said. “We would really like for every community around here to be able to showcase their community and get people out to the park. It’s a beautiful park and just a nice way to spend an evening.

“Each community offers a different opportunity and approach. Coal City chose to highlight its school district, while Morris chose Habitat for Humanity and the Housing Authority. They all have different angles to choose from. I will talk to the mayor about throwing out the first pitch, find out if they have an individual or organization that would like to sing the national anthem before the game, set up a raffle for people to win free tickets to a suite, different stuff like that. It’s really a lot of fun to get people from these different communities out here. And, if they have fun, we hope they want to come back. And they don’t have to be right in the surrounding area. We have had communities as far away as Ottawa do a community night here.”

As far as interaction with the players, Miller – who does have some baseball coaching on his résumé as well – doesn’t take any players aside and give them advice on their swings or their curveballs. However, he will chat with them if they just want to shoot the breeze.

“I am not going to interfere with their baseball,” he said. “But, I will drive them to different public appearances, and we just talk about life in general. For a lot of these guys, it’s the first time they are out on their own without the structure of living with their parents or being in school. You forget sometimes when you are watching them on the field that these are just young kids getting started in life. If I can give them any positive advice in that direction, I am happy to do it.”

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