‘Love for the Game’ Fuels 20 Years of Little League

Lee Miller steps up to the plate to make the Key Peninsula Little League possible for kids every year. He has no plans to stop.


For nearly a quarter of a century, Lee Miller has been roaming the baselines and dugouts of the baseball fields at Volunteer Park, just south of Key Center.

The Key Peninsula Little League needed volunteer t-ball coaches. Miller’s 5-year-old nephew, Ian, did too. So Miller stepped up to the plate.

What began as helping his family for a season turned into helping hundreds of families over two decades.

Miller ended up coaching Ian’s KPLL teams through high school; players can play until they’re 16. When his own son Sam was old enough to play, Miller coached his teams, too. Later on, Miller signed up to be the league’s chief umpire, a thankless job of recruiting others to volunteer for a similar thankless position. Then, a few years before COVID-19 put a damper on things, he opted to run for league president, a position he holds today.

“This is just the best time of year,” Miller said before the KPLL kicked off baseball and girls softball March 30 with Opening Day ceremonies at Volunteer Park. “Baseball season is my favorite season.”

The KPLL was around long before Miller got involved, but other board volunteers credit him for its recent success and growth.

“He has helped build an incredible league out here that kids will be able to be a part of for years to come,” said Shelby Johnston, who helps operate the softball side of the KPLL and serves as board secretary.

“He is well-respected from those in other leagues and you can see and hear his love for the game with every story he shares.”

There were times in the past when the league couldn’t muster enough players to fill multiple teams in t-ball, coach pitch, minor, major, intermediate, junior or senior divisions. Now Miller says they would see upwards of 250 kids come out for baseball, though this spring it’s down to about 200.

“It’s a cyclical sport,” he said. “Some kids age out and aren’t allowed to play anymore. Some kids just come to realize that they don’t want to play baseball.”

He’s fine with the latter. Miller just wants to see more opportunities on the KP to keep kids active. Yes, KPLL’s purpose is to make good ball players, but Miller said it’s even more so “to make them good and decent citizens.”

“They get to meet different kids outside their own classroom and school,” he said. “I see players really expanding their friendship zone through playing a team sport like this.”

Miller is getting settled into his role as the league president and is appreciative of his corps of volunteers. Administrative tasks like ordering equipment, developing schedules, getting sponsors, and recruiting volunteers that were once the job of what seemed like only two or three people are now handled by a volunteer team of 12 who Miller said “tackle it with great enthusiasm and fresh ideas.” Not to mention a slew of volunteer coaches, umpires and parents who make the games go off without a hitch.

Melanie Russum, a recent addition to the KPLL board focusing on securing sponsorship and fundraising opportunities, noted that despite Miller’s extensive behind-the-scenes responsibilities, he maintains the mindset of a coach.

“He’s down at the field on rainy days to see if they are in good condition for the players,” she said. “He randomly pops in at games just to check in with parents and coaches, and to watch a few outs.”

“I can tell the decisions and improvements (Miller) makes or pushes for the league are all in the best interest of the kids,” said Kit Larson, who serves in three roles for the KPLL: coach, vice president, and safety officer.

Under Miller’s watch, the league typically brings in as much as it spends every year, about $20,000. Most of the revenue comes from registration fees and sponsorships, and most of the big expenses are field rentals and uniforms. Any extra funds are reinvested by the board in equipment and preparation for next season. The league was the beneficiary of a $14,500 donation from the Key Peninsula Logging Show last August, and KPLL will receive donations in September from Key IGA’s “Round Up at the Register” program.

Miller will be recognized for his service and accomplishments at the Opening Day ceremonies at Volunteer Park March 30.

Those wanting to get involved with KPLL as a sponsor, coach, or other volunteer opportunities can reach Miller at 253-225- 9911 or AskKPLL@hotmail.com.