During his childhood, Kody Milton experienced baseball in ways most kids can only dream of, thanks to his father, Eric, who pitched in the majors for 11 seasons after playing at the University of Maryland from 1994-1996.
Eric Milton spent the majority of his professional career with the Minnesota Twins (1998-2003), but also had stints with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers.
As a result, Kody Milton had privileged access to the major leagues, with his earliest memories stemming from his dad's time in Cincinnati.
"For night games, the players would get there early in the day, so a lot of times my dad would bring me along for half of the day," said Kody Milton, who is a senior at Severna Park High School. "I could hang out in the clubhouse and meet the other players and their kids. We got to run on the field, and I remember loving whenever we got to play in the outfield. We'd take batting practice out there and hit it over the fence; sometimes there'd be fans around to cheer for us. It was a pretty cool experience for a 5-year-old."
Eric Milton enjoyed a sensational professional career. He threw a no-hitter in 1999; made the All-Star game in 2001, and recorded a postseason win in 2002. But Eric Milton said one of the best things about playing in the majors was getting to bring his son to work.
"He had Ken Griffey Jr. throwing him batting practice, so that was definitely different," Eric Milton said. "It was a lot different than what I experienced growing up, but I still saw the love, passion and drive that he had. The hard work he's put in is parallel to what I did."
That hard work has paid off. Kody Milton is one of the top high school players in Maryland. And he still gets to go to work with his dad, who serves as Severna Park's head baseball coach.
Kody Milton had strong seasons during his first three years of high school, but his junior year in particular stands out. He batted .580 with a .700 on base percentage and finished the year with 11 doubles and six home runs, all while playing solid defense at first and third base.
He earned a plethora of honors after his junior season, including being named an Under Armor All-American. As a result, he got to play at Wrigley Field in the Under Armor All-American game this past July, an experience he called his best baseball memory of all time.
"Being with some of the best players for my age in the world and getting that competition puts in perspective just how talented some players are," Kody Milton said. "You go from being one of the best players locally to a place where you're average, it motivated me a lot."
Eric Milton has had a front-row view of his son's high school career; he took over for the Falcons two years before his son got to high school.
It's been a solid dynamic for the duo for the past three years. Eric Milton coached his son while he was growing up, so it wasn't the first time the two had to deal with the coach-player relationship.
"We're used to it," Kody Milton said. "When we're at the baseball field he treats me like any other player. Sometimes we talk about baseball at home, but for the most part we forget what happened at the field."
Still, coaching your son presents some challenges.
Before his freshman season, Kody Milton worked hard at improving his swing and adjusting his approach at the plate. The hard work paid off. When spring tryouts came around, Kody Milton was one of the best players on the field, which put his coach in a bind.
"I was unsure about putting any freshman on the [varsity] team, especially my son, and seeing how people would react to that," Eric Milton said. "The other coaches talked me into putting him on the varsity, which made me feel better about it. There were still some people who were critical of it at first, but then he hit .400 and started at first base for us as we made the state championship."
As Kody Milton continued to thrive on the baseball diamond, college programs began to take notice.
Initially, Kody Milton didn't want to consider Maryland. He wanted to play somewhere he'd be viewed just as a baseball player, not as Eric Milton's son, and he struggled to see how that could be possible at his father's alma mater.
After visiting a few different colleges, though, he decided to give Maryland a look and loved it.
"I could really see myself at Maryland, and they wanted me for who I am," Kody Milton said. "Even though both my parents went to Maryland, they didn't pressure me to choose it. They wanted me to go where I wanted to go."
Eric Milton echoed his son's sentiments, though he admitted he's excited his son chose to go to a school where his family can watch him play baseball regularly.
Before that happens though, Kody Milton has to play his final high school baseball season. For as outstanding as his high school career has been, Severna Park hasn't won a Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association state championship during his time on the team.
"Being unable to do it during my first three years, then winning a state championship as a senior with your Dad as your head coach would be a pretty crazy moment," Kody Milton said. "I'd remember it forever if it ends up happening that way. I'm sure both of us would."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eric Milton
Issue 243: April 2018