Story courtesy of Kevin Gray and Brian MacPherson, staff writers for the New Hampshire Union Leader.
MANCHESTER – Beau Mills was tied up with athletic socks and stuck inside a bucket on top of the Phillies dugout. And a water hose cooled off the 11-year-old.
The pranksters? Philadelphia pitchers Curt Schilling and Ricky Bottalico.
Mills, son of Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, can tell similar baseball stories from here to Ohio. The Akron Aeros slugger grew up in the game while his father coached and managed in the minors and majors.
The baseball pedigree gave him a head start in the game, and combined with natural talent and hard work, Mills turned himself into one of the country's most desired position players in the 2007 draft.
Cleveland selected Mills out of Lewis-Clark State College with the 13th overall pick, behind only five other non-pitchers. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder lived up to expectations in his first full pro season, belting 21 homers with 90 RBI for High-A Kinston.
He entered last night's doubleheader against the Fisher Cats batting .271 with six homers. Mills has recently heated up, batting .352 in June, thanks in part to better pitch selection. He drew a bases-loaded walk after falling behind in the count, 0-2, in the sixth inning of game one last night.
"There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made, and I'm making them. I feel really good where I'm at right now," said Mills, 22, who knocked in Akron's first run with a laser single to center field.
Beau and Brad Mills exchange texts daily and talk on the phone every few days. When the Red Sox had an off-day in Detroit, Brad flew to Reading and watched his son collect a pair of Eastern League hits. It's possible they could meet in the majors by next season.
"I'm very happy with what he's doing," Brad said from Fenway Park last night. "The reason is, being able to get at-bats at each level and progress is so important. To be able to finish this level and go on to the next level is very important ... it's hard to explain unless you've been through it "" for these guys to go through heartaches and go through struggles, go through slumps, and learn each level ... I've told him, 'Beau, your goal isn't just to get to the big leagues. It's to get there and stay there and be successful there.' He's got that ability to do that, and taking it step by step only helps that."
The best advice Brad has given his son lately is something you would hear at a Little League field.
"Have fun, play hard," Beau said. "You can't overthink things and analyze too much. Sometimes all you really need to do is let your talent take over and play the game."
Mills at an early age learned the message of having from major leaguers. The youngster occasionally served as bat boy when his father was first base coach for the Terry Francona-managed Phillies.
One afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the 11-year-old Beau was the butt of a joke right at home plate:
"I ran out to get the bat, and Mike Piazza is sitting there with the bat. I go to each for it, and he pulls it away. He kept doing that. I turn around and look at the Jumbotron, and the team had stuck two cups on my helmet. Piazza was stalling so all the fans could see me out there looking like an idiot ... That told me the game is not always serious. If you're not having fun, it's going to be a long season."
The elder Mills played eight seasons in the minors and parts of four seasons with the Expos. Needless to say, the father can relate to his son's situation from as far as 3,000 miles away.
"I know when he's struggling, and I know when he's hurting. I say, 'How are you doing?' He's real good about being up front with me because he knows I know," said Brad, who made a trip to Manchester on Monday to have dinner with Beau. "The other night, he was thrown out at second. He had three hits, I think, and the last one he tried to stretch into a double and got thrown out. I said, 'Get a little greedy?' He said, 'Hey, how'd you know?' I said, 'I could see it.'"
Some of Beau's earliest memories are traveling in a car following his dad's journey through baseball. That day in Philly -- when the kid was soaked and stranded on top of the dugout -- was just another day in the life of Beau Mills.
"Schilling threw me down and tied me up. The whole team was stretching and laughing at me," he said. "My dad came out, and I was the one who got in trouble. I wasn't able to go out for batting practice that day."
Staff writer Kevin Gray covers baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Union Leader Boston sports correspondent Brian MacPherson contributed from Fenway Park.