Sometimes baseball is just in the blood.
For Cody Milligan, baseball has been a family affair since he was a young child. His father was a scout for the New York Yankees and also coached the local high school team, so early on it became a dream for Milligan to pursue a baseball career.
At three years old, he played coach-pitch with his older brother, and by five he was the bat boy for his dad’s high school team, and by six he was keeping the official scorebook. And thus a love for the game was born.
“I often joke that I was basically raised in the dugout. I probably learned a lot of stuff that I shouldn’t have known at the time, but growing up around high schoolers being five, six, seven, being the bat boy, you’re going to learn some stuff like that,” Milligan said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I feel like it helped my game knowledge, just knowing the game.”
For most of his life, Milligan was behind the plate as a catcher, but since being drafted in the ninth round of this year’s Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves, Milligan has been manning second base. Milligan has never been a big guy, so catcher wasn’t the ideal position for his skill set, but it was perfect for him as a player on the field.
“I think I kind of got stuck behind the plate because I had that knowledge. I saw the field so well. I was always a real good verbal leader,” he said. “I was one of the guys who actually wanted to do it... I actually preferred to be behind the plate.”
That too came from being a part of a baseball family. Milligan’s older brother, Lane Milligan, is a catcher in the Boston Red Sox system after being selected in the 17th round in 2018.
“Him and my dad would go out and do catching drills in the front yard and I would just sit there and watch and learn stuff,” Milligan said.
Milligan’s dream to play professional baseball developed when a player his dad coached got drafted out of high school. He didn’t know why everyone was so excited for him, so he asked his dad.
“He told me he was going to play professional baseball. He’s going to get paid to play a game,” Milligan recalled. “I think that was when it really hit me that maybe I could do this one day.”
When Milligan got to high school, one of his teammates was drawing interest from Major League teams. He learned the hard way during that time that he couldn’t worry about that, and that he just had to focus on his game.
“We had a lot of eyes on us,” he said. “I kind of got out of my way. I kind of tried too much.”
Milligan began his collegiate career at Oklahoma State, where he learned a little bit of infield and outfield, but then transferred to Cowley College. It was during his time there that scouts approached Milligan and said that catcher might not be his best position for the MLB. After considering outfield for a bit, he and the scouts decided to enter his name as a catcher.
Then came draft day. He’d been through it a couple of times with his brother, so it made it a little easier, until it didn’t. The scout that Milligan has been working with called him and said he expected to get the call in the fifth round, but he didn’t. Then came the sixth round, and still nothing. The scout hung up to make some calls, and while that was going on, and Milligan was still waiting him to call back, he needed to step away.
“I got in the shower. I was a little upset,” Milligan said. “I got in the shower and as soon as I got in the shower I got the call from my scout and he was like, ‘(the Atlanta Braves) want to take you here in the ninth,’ so I rinse my hair out real quick and I ran into the room and I told my dad.
“Just seeing my name on the board, all of the emotions hit me... Everybody in my family was smiling ear-to-ear, my mom was crying. It was just one of those things that you wait your whole life for and then when it finally happens it’s unreal.”
That’s also the moment he found out that he was changing positions to second base.
“When I saw my name popped up on the draft board it said, ‘Cody Milligan, second base,” he said. “So far it’s been fun.”
Early in the season Milligan was struggling at the plate. His average was down to .212 on July 5, after Wednesday’s game he’s on a seven-game hitting streak and his average is up to .290.
He thanks Lane for that, telling him to get a notebook and write down every pitch he sees from every at bat.
“I’ve got my family pushing me, but he’s there with me,” Milligan said.
The one things his brother has provided that may not be a positive is his current employer. Lane is currently in Short Season A-Ball with the Lowell Spinners in the Red Sox organization. For a family that came up rooting for the Yankees, it’s been a weird adjustment.
“I came back from college one day and Lane had just got back and I walk in and Lane’s got all his Red Sox stuff on. I let it be. That’s who he plays for,” he said. “I turn the corner and I see my dad decked out in Red Sox stuff, and my jaw hit the floor. I could not believe it.”
But at least one family member won’t cross that line.
“My middle brother, he will not put on Red Sox anything,” Milligan laughed. “He told me he’d wear Braves stuff, so that’s okay with me.”
Milligan is excited to be where he’s at right now, and hopes that he’ll continue to make strides towards the MLB, but he’s not letting himself get too carried away. He understands patience and repetition is key.
“I don’t think it’s going to come that quickly. They have guys in front of me that are there for a reason. I’m not going to walk in being a first-year second baseman and start moving up right away, an that’s perfectly fine with me,” he said. “It’s just another year to get better and learn more second base and see more pitching and another opportunity to get better, and that’s perfectly fine with me.”
Chris Doherty is a Sports Reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him 276-638-8801 ext. 215. Follow on Twitter @BulletinSport