Photos courtesy of The Miller family

Affable, athletic Chris Miller was the last guy people imagined might die at age 49. The Lake Highlands High alumnus and father of three more LHHS grads played baseball for the Wildcats before signing on to pitch for Texas Tech. He and his wife, Carrie, were on a trip to Kansas to watch their son, Samuel, play for Seward College when they were in a car crash September 2020. Carrie’s injuries were minor, but Chris fell ill on the drive home and was hospitalized in Oklahoma City. A brain bleed required emergency surgery, and several other serious issues followed. After two months he was released to a medical center in Dallas. He died two days after Christmas.

Chris was a law partner at Hallett and Perrin in Dallas, but his real passion was supporting his children’s activities at LHHS. In 2018, he helped create the school’s Alumni Baseball Game, which became a sort of annual reunion for former players from all over the country. Besides being a fun day in the sunshine, the event has provided mentorship and networking opportunities between current students and graduates now working in real estate, law, education and other fields.

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This year’s alumni game, to be held Feb. 12 at 11:30 a.m. at LHHS, will be a fundraiser for the new “Chris Miller 90 Feet Forward Foundation,” set up to honor his memory and provide educational and athletic scholarships. The effort is the brainchild of Ethan Everett, Brandon Moore, Clayton Duncan and Steven Miller, Chris’ brother. Everett and Moore became buddies with Miller in junior high and graduated LHHS with him in 1990. Duncan joined the group when they arrived at Texas Tech.  

“Chris was a super lovable guy,” Everett says. “Everyone that knew him would agree that he’d do anything for you. He had a big reach and was active in the local community, the legal community and his church. When Chris loved you, you knew it because he told you. He was a lovable, huggable, emotional guy. The top five times when I’ve laughed the hardest, Chris Miller was next to me.

“The ultimate goal of the foundation is to honor Chris,” Everett explains. “No one will ever forget him, but this will be an ongoing way for us to tell his story.”

Funds raised will provide need-based college scholarships and pay club baseball fees for kids whose families cannot afford them.

“Club baseball gets pretty expensive, and we’ve found that some kids have to drop out,” Everett says. “We’d like to find neighborhood kids who are passionate about the game and have the ability to play at the higher level. Chris would just love that down to his core.”

The community’s outpouring of love for Miller through the foundation is already helping his children see their dad in a whole new light, Everett says.

“Chris was a highly communicative guy, real and purposeful with his kids, so they already have a handle on who he is,” Everett says. “What they’ve seen here is the impact he had, and will continue to have, on others.”

Miller’s oldest daughter agrees.

“This foundation is meant to bless others, and we love that dad will be honored at the same time,” Jordan Miller Frederiksen says. “Katie, Samuel and I want everyone to know how special our dad was and how much he loved the community, but through the community’s contributions we can help students achieve their goals. That’s what dad would want. He loved watching us grow up in Lake Highlands, and he loved seeing kids work hard.”

Though their dad’s life was far too short, they view it, in a way, as a “full circle.” He participated enthusiastically in the kids’ activities at LHHS, attended Samuel’s 2020 graduation and cheered his entry into the world of college baseball.

“When I was a Highlandette, dad loved performing in the Bob and Susie (father/daughter) halftime show,” Miller Frederiksen says. “Our director told the dads it was okay if they messed up, but dad went home and moved the furniture to practice. He never missed my performances or Katie’s when she was a cheerleader and Wrangler. He was also Katie’s softball coach and led her team to its only championship. He never missed one of Samuel’s baseball, basketball or football games growing up. When he and mom became the Wildcat Club baseball reps, he worked to clean up the field, get new uniforms and boost support for the team. He was a great mentor of faith to us, and that was a huge part of who he was to us and to the community.”

Samuel is now a student at Texas Tech, but he’ll be back to play in the alumni game. Among the many cheering from the bleachers will be Carrie, Katie, Jordan and Jordan’s husband, Lars. They say they’ll never be able to adequately thank those organizing and donating to the foundation.

“We are blown away by this opportunity to share how awesome our dad was,” says Jordan. “Your money will go to something bigger than ourselves, and it will last forever in someone’s academic career.”

Ninety feet is the distance between each base on a baseball field, and the foundation takes its name from the way Miller encouraged teen players, young lawyers and his own kids to keep moving forward – one “base” at a time. In sports, academics, law and life, he prompted others to keep looking for the positive in themselves and others.

If you’d like to pitch in, you may donate via the website at Checks may be sent to Veritex Community Bank at 2101 Abrams Road, Dallas, TX 75214 c/o The Chris Miller 90 Feel Forward Foundation.