Lee Miller played outfield and pitched this year for the Riverwood High School team. Even before the season began, Davidson College in North Carolina awarded him a scholarship to play baseball. Yet, according to Leo Rose, who heads the Christopher program ('For 13 years, I've not lost a game!,' he jokes), Lee 'never stopped showing up' on Saturday mornings. He brought his high school friends and 'really became a leader,' according to Rose. 'The kids light up with him. He leads by putting others ahead of himself.'
One can only imagine the courage it took for Nick Napolitano as he jumped from 25 feet above a point where the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay converge near Newport, Rhode Island. Below, he could see friend and Wake Forest fraternity brother Greg Minetti in danger of drowning as waves crashed against the shore. Nick reached his friend and pulled him away from the cove to safety. Another wave slammed Nick into a rock. A second friend saw that Nick was seriously injured, jumped into the water and fought to hold onto him. A strong undertow won the tug of war. Nick's body was recovered two days later, and his family was told death was caused by head trauma. Nick Napolitano died because he put another ahead of himself.
Murray Reavis, who coached Nick as a 12-year-old Titan, remembers a 'completely selfless young man . . . one of the best defensive players out here . . . quick to point out his teammates first.' Nick's parents, Val and Regis Napolitano, want the memory of their son to live on. That is why they established the annual award and why, according to Leo Rose, they have endowed the Christopher League to insure it continues. Val Napolitano recalls a son who 'led by example, never sought the spotlight. That's what this progrtam is all about.'
Lynne and Brad Miller watched their son emerge from the group of Christopher League participants to receive his award. Not only have they raised a good son, they've watched a superb baseball player grow in the NYO program. Randy Rhino, who has managed the 12-year-old Titans since the last century --- the mid 90's actually --- knows a thing, or two, about baseball talent and character.
Lee will serve as a volunteer coach for this summer's Titan team, an invitation Rhino extends to one former player each year. He will also play East Cobb baseball and work to save money for college. 'Lee is one of my favorites and one of the top Titans ever,' Rhino says. 'He's the epitome of what you ask for in a player. He is humble, too.' He describes Lee's baseball swing as 'one of the prettiest you've ever seen,' and says Lee holds the record for most homeruns by a Titan in a single season, 22. At a tournament in Cooperstown, NY, Lee won a homerun-hitting contest. In the games, he belted nearly half of that summer's 22 homers. 'The fences were in,' Lee remembers modestly.
'After he won the homerun derby,' Rhino recalls, 'kids from other teams began knocking on the door of his room and asking for autographs. He was embarrassed, but he signed. He's the only Titan ever asked for an autograph by another 12-year-old.'
In memory and in honor of Nick (Hoover) Napolitano, this year's Titans will wear his former number, 6, on their sleeves. And in Lee Miller they will have a coach who embodies the saying etched into the plaque he received: 'Sports do not build character. They reveal it.'
A former coach recalled the joy of playing baseball that Lee displayed as 9-year-old. He bounded to the mound to pitch. He raced from the dugout to hit. 'You loved the game as a little boy,' the coach recalled.
'I guess you could still say I do,' Lee replies.