Cade Miller was an obvious target for head ECU baseball coach Cliff Godwin and his staff. A 2022 right-handed pitcher whose fastball has been clocked in the upper-80s and even 90 MPH and is from North Carolina, Cade officially announced his commitment to the Pirates on Monday, giving them 10 members in their 2022 class.

For ECU, Cade’s verbal commitment only continued to add to their stable of prep talent as the 5’10”, 180-pounder out of Alexander Central High School possesses two really projectable pitches in his fastball and slider. For Cade and his family, his commitment signaled validation for all the long, hard days on the diamond and in the weight room.

“I’m just so thankful that everything he’s done — so much hard work that he’s done day and night since he was little,” Cade’s mother, Christie Miller, said in a phone interview this week. “It’s always been something he’s wanted, college, and hopefully past that as much as he can go. I’m just so glad to finally see him realize that everything we’ve told him, everything he’s done, is worth it.”

In his mother’s own words, Cade has always been different than his teammates on various school and travel teams. Perhaps that is because, even at a young age, Cade possessed the ability to throw a baseball really hard, something that actually got him banned from playing against older competition as a 9-year-old.

“He’s just different,” Miller said. “He always really has been. If you put him in a group of 10 kids on the field, you’re going to know there’s something different about that kid. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what position he plays in, you would notice.”

As Cade got older, that is exactly what collegiate scouts began doing, taking notice. While he is not the biggest kid on the diamond, a lifetime of playing up on travel rosters and the occasional call to the varsity squad at his high school uniquely shaped Cade as he turned 14, 15 and 16 years old.

For this decision about which college to attend, Cade’s maturity beyond his 16 years showed through and allowed him to process his options in a way not many prospects his age could. That was especially important considering he had an offer from Notre Dame, as well as ECU, and interest from the likes of Kentucky and Campbell.

“He’s just always played up and it’s really helped at this point the maturity level get to where he can process everything and say, ‘OK I can commit right now 100%, 110%,’” Miller said. ‘“This is where I want to go, this is where I want to grow and see what happens.’”

Christie also said that it is her son’s “old soul” that makes her feel so comfortable about turning him loose to attend college four hours away from their hometown. ECU’s coaching staff also set Christie’s mind at ease about their ability and willingness to look out for Cade’s best interests while at the same time pushing him to be the best at what he does.

Aside from just the baseball aspect, Miller said he noticed a focus on academics at ECU that was not always present at other colleges that expressed interest in her son.

“East Carolina really cares about academics, even above baseball,” Miller said. “They make sure on a weekly basis they have a meeting and make sure those kids are in-line and whatever they need to do, if they need help. Anything they need, they’re there having their back the entire time. I’ve not heard that from some of the other people that we’ve spoken with.”

Cade, who attends an early college and is sporting a 3.9 collegiate GPA and 4.3 high school GPA, has his sights set on potentially studying physical therapy at ECU and would be able to enter the university academically as a junior.

In three or four years on campus, that puts Cade in the position to pursue a Master’s Degree in whichever field he chooses, setting him up well for post-college endeavors. In that respect, Christie said she liked what she heard from the Pirates’ coaching staff and believes the campus in second to none in terms of facilities and resources that will be available to Cade.

“I didn’t want him to be overwhelmed,” Miller said. “I knew whatever baseball program he would go to, he would excel, because he always does. I was concerned about the size of the campus, because some of them are so spread out. He got there and even his first impression, he said ‘momma, this is home.’ He said, ‘this feels like home.’ It truly did, it’s a lot like where we come from, our neighborhood and everything.

“It’s bigger, obviously as far as the town and things like that. But just having that community and that family feeling just made the difference and being able to choose East Carolina. That’s what set them above Notre Dame and things like that, because they gave an offer that was extremely hard to turn down.”

Listed as a two-way player by some showcase organizations and websites, Cade can do just about anything that is asked of him on the diamond, according to his mother. In his time with various programs, Cade has played in the outfield, at second base, shortstop and can even slot in behind the plate if needed.

While it might be too early to say whether or not Cade will continue that at ECU, it was the opportunity to be able to carry that versatility over that continued to make the Pirates more attractive.

“I think it’s definitely something he would enjoy,” Miller said. “He’s used to being put wherever he’s needed. Last Friday, he pitched four innings and came out and they said, just go to the outfield. Wherever they tell him to go, he can do it. He’s used to being a utility player to some degree, he’s always done that growing up.”

As the self-proclaimed “two-way U”, ECU has had heaps of success with those types of players, most notably Alec Burleson, who was drafted in the second round of the MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this month.

Nevertheless his abilities in the field, Cade has burst onto the scene since teams like the Dirtbags have resumed play after the COVID-19 pandemic halted most sports leagues. Since then, Cade has topped out at 91 MPH with his heater and continued to look better and better with every outing.

“He went in to close, not last week but the weekend before, 12 batters up, 12 strikeouts, only 50 pitches,” Miller said. “This is coming off COVID, this is coming off him not playing. He’s had the best games he’s had after COVID than he’s ever played. I don’t know if that’s because he’s not had to worry about school as much, once the online stuff is over…He just keeps trying to push himself and we don’t have to go after him or follow him or beg him to do anything.”

A kid with a clear-cut goal in mind of playing baseball collegiately and beyond, Cade seems to fit perfectly with the culture and mindset that Godwin and company have been building at ECU for the last several years.

“ECU, they just got it together,” Miller said. “Their whole program is top notch. To me, it’s the best around here…That culture of just, you know, you’re brothers, that’s what they truly become. Even the coach told him on the phone the other day, some of these guys will probably be in your wedding and you’ll probably be in their wedding.”

As for Cade’s family, the next two years will either fly or crawl by as they watch their son continue to grow and change in front of their very eyes. Without much maturing to do, as he has already exhibited it beyond his years, Cade can focus on honing his craft even more while his parents pick out some purple and gold clothing.

“My husband, he said, ‘I cannot wait for two years to come,’” Miller said. “We’re ready to be Pirates now, I know we are (already) but we’re ready to go out there and wear our purple and gold and start yelling.”

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